North Carolina’s transgender “bathroom ban” caused a national outcry in 2016. Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Nick Jonas and a long list of other A-list performers have canceled shows across the state. Global corporations Deutsche Bank and PayPal have torpedoed expansion plans in Cary and Charlotte. NCAA moved the planned championship games elsewhere.
Now, eight years later, after Utah passed a similar bill on Monday, the reaction outside the state seems more like a shrug.
None of Utah’s largest companies have released a statement in response to the legislation. Tens of thousands of out-of-towners, and the resulting economic boom, returned home from the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City. Global sensation – and strange icon — Bad Bunny will be performing in Salt Lake City in the coming weeks. Next month, Salt Lake City will host first- and second-round games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Representatives for the NCAA, Bad Bunny and Sundance did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In fact, transgender bathroom laws passed with little fanfare among those passed in North Carolina and Utah.
Allison Scott, who volunteered as a grassroots activist to fight HB 2 in North Carolina, called Utah’s lackluster response to the “bathroom law” and several other laws passed in recent years “very telling.”
“That’s what we all said with HB 2: ‘It’s not over,'” said Scott, who is also the director of impact and innovation for the Southern Equality Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group. and we’ve seen it grow and grow and we’re not just back where we started, but worse.”
While the enactment of Utah’s law has immediate implications for the state’s trans community, the lukewarm response to its passage also reflects a broader retreat from the transgender rights that galvanized corporate America, elite sports and Hollywood less than a decade ago.
A document called Utah House Bill 257Sex-Based Designations for Privacy, Anti-Bullying, and Women’s Empowerment,” restricts transgender people’s access to bathrooms in public schools and government-run buildings. These include restrooms at Salt Lake City International Airport, which are operated by local government, and at Utah’s public hospitals and universities. It also shows that the state’s legal definition of “male” and “female” is based on the genitalia at birth, not a person’s gender identity.
The bill makes exceptions for trans people who have undergone genital surgery and changed the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.
Critics of the law said it would create a “dangerous situation for trans youth.”
The law has supporters argued that if no action is taken, men posing as trans women will enter women’s public restrooms and sexually assault them.
Sponsoring the Utah law, Rep. Kera Birkeland said the bill was needed to close a “huge loophole for predators” and would only prosecute offenders who commit a “crime of indecency” as the bill describes.
“If people just come in and use the bathroom the way it’s supposed to be used, they’ll be fine. It’s been consistent throughout the bill, with any change,” Birkeland said in a phone call. “We’re not just targeting transgender people or people like, ‘I’m going to miss my flight, I’m going to go into the men’s bathroom because the line is shorter.'”
He also backed off criticism pointing out that the bill would create an environment where Utahns policed trans people in public restrooms and a provision in the bill that would criminalize people for providing false information about trans people in public restrooms.
“We don’t want to encourage any vigilantes out there trying to be ignorant,” he said. “The whole point is just to make sure everyone feels like they have a safe place to do personal things.”
Transgender journalist and advocate Erin Reed pushed back, arguing that regardless of the specifics of the bill, the legislation would be disruptive to trans people.
“People aren’t going to wade through the finer points of a 12-page law,” Reed said. “Most likely you’ll only see trans people and cis people being challenged in the bathroom.”
In addition to Utah and North Carolina, lawmakers in nine other states have passed similar laws in recent years, including Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky, the Associated Press reported. The measures largely limit trans people’s access to restrooms in schools, colleges, and government-run buildings.
But North Carolina law, HB 2went further by banning trans people from using restrooms and changing objects that correspond to their gender identity in most public places.
HB 2 – which then partially repealed in 2017 — also prevented local governments from taking action against LGBTQ discrimination and struck down existing protections, including the controversial one in Charlotte. Shannon Gilreath, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law and a professor in the university’s gender and sexuality program, said the law therefore affected a wider swath of the population than today’s bills, and therefore sparked national outrage.
“When their self-interest is not directly affected by any discrimination, they are less likely to respond or care,” Gilreath said. “I may not believe that’s necessarily the right attitude — to do what’s appropriate and what’s right in a situation — but that’s human nature.”
Some research supports Gilreath’s line of reasoning.
A request About 79% of Americans support anti-discrimination protections against LGBTQ people, according to a nonpartisan survey last year by the Public Religion Research Institute. The poll found that policies favoring mostly trans Americans received only significantly less support. However, Americans who say they know at least one trans person are more likely to support pro-trans policies by 2022. request Retrieved from Pew Research Center.
What has changed since 2016, Reed said, is that people and even billion-dollar corporations are afraid of far-right incitement.
He pointed to a group of conservative provocateurs who have amassed tens of millions of social media followers in part by fueling outrage over LGBTQ issues. In a number of cases, threats of violence followed the themes of posts made or amplified by a group of right-wing influencers.
“These people are scary,” Reed said. “What if the NBA threatened to postpone the All-Star Game right now? In this atmosphere? Today? They would receive bomb threats from conservatives.”
Last year, bomb threats were made to Budweiser factories across the country after trans-infusionist Dylan Mulvaney’s brand partnership with Bud Light sparked an online firestorm in pockets of right-wing social media. Target too He pulled some of his LGBTQ-themed merchandise for Pride Month last year after it said it had received “threats affecting the safety and well-being of its members at work”.
Reed also suggested that it may not be politically advantageous for Republicans to go against the grain when it comes to issues affecting trans people.
Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeVine then faced a political blow vetoed the banning bill gender-affirming care for minors in the state in December. Former President Donald Trump called on Ohio lawmakers to override the veto. writing said on the social media platform Truth Social that he was “done” with the Republican governor. Ohio Senators overrode the governor’s veto last week.
In recent weeks, grassroots activists were unsure whether Utah Governor Spencer Cox would sign HB 257. In 2022 Cox vetoed legislation aimed at limiting the ability of transgender students to compete on girls’ sports teams at school, citing a disproportionate rate of suicidal ideation among trans children.
But since then, Anti-LGBTQ political rhetoric and legislation rose.
Conservative lawmakers have introduced more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures across the country, most of them targeting trans people, according to the ACLU. Seventy-five of those bills became lawincluding Cox, which banned sex-affirming care for minors in Utah signed to the law.
Many signed Utah’s “bathroom bill” released a brief statement Monday evening with little fanfare and after weeks of speculation about its position.
“We want safe and livable public spaces for everyone, and this bill increases privacy protections for everyone,” the statement said.
The law takes effect immediately.
In addition to Utah, lawmakers in five states — South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kansas and Iowa — have introduced their own “bathroom bills,” or legislation that further expands the “bathroom bills” already on the books. American Civil Liberties Union.