Utah lawmakers passed a bill Friday that would ban transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity in schools and government buildings.
House Bill 257.Sex-Based Designations for Privacy, Anti-Bullying, and Women’s Empowerment,” also shows that the state’s legal definition of “man” and “woman” is based on a person’s genitalia rather than their gender identity. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for enactment.
This is the third year that Utah lawmakers have passed a law limiting the rights of the state’s trans community.
The passage of the bill also comes less than seven years after similar legislation was enacted in North Carolina, HB 2. caused national outrage. And HB 2 triggered a state boycott global corporationsbig name performers and college sports leaguesaside from advocates and LGBTQ people living in the state, there has been little buzz about the Utah bill.
If the bill goes into effect, it would be the 13th law in the country to restrict the ability of trans people to use public facilities to some extent, according to an LGBTQ think tank that tracks the bills.
Proponents of the measure argued that the bill was necessary to prevent “predators who want to harm women” from going into the bathroom and changing objects under the guise of being a trans woman.
“Let’s be clear, sexual harassment knows no borders. Rep. Kera Birkeland of Utah, the lead sponsor of the bill, said Thursday on X that keeping men out of women’s spaces is an appropriate and much-needed boundary in Utah and across America. “No one is calling out the transgender community for crimes against women.”
Instead, critics slammed the bill for singling out the state’s trans community.
Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, called the legislation an “intrusion on our basic liberties.”
“No student should be denied access to a bathroom that aligns with who they are,” he said in a statement Friday. “No one should fear persecution in the most private circumstances. Period.”
It is unclear whether Republican Gov. Spencer Cox will sign the bill into law. Cox’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the governor has not commented publicly on the bill.
In 2022, Cox vetoed legislation aimed at limiting the ability of transgender students to compete on girls’ sports teams at school. (Later, Utah lawmakers exceeded vetoed by their Republican governor and the bill became law.) But last year Cox signed gender-based ban on child care during the first few weeks of the legislative session.
Equality Utah, an LGBTQ advocacy group, a A statement about X On Friday, she said she successfully fought to include language in the text of HB 257 that would prevent criminal prosecution of juvenile delinquents and will continue to advocate on behalf of trans youth.
The original text of the bill would have effectively banned transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity in any publicly funded facility, including hospitals and airports. But the state Senate amended the language to limit the scope of the ban to public schools and government-owned facilities, with a majority of state House lawmakers agreeing.
“It’s very clear that right now there will be ongoing and sustained political attacks against transgender and non-binary Utahns,” said Aaron Welcher, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. “It’s very unfortunate for all the reasons we fight for people’s rights and civil liberties, but it’s also very unfortunate because many of these people affected over the last three years are young people.”
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