Jan 30, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Utah governor signs anti-trans bathroom bill

A close-up shot of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox's face.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill on Tuesday that would ban transgender people's access to public restrooms and locker rooms.

What he's saying: "We want public facilities that are safe and accommodating for everyone and this bill increases privacy protections for all," said Cox, who is running for re-election this year, in a statement.

By the numbers: H.B. 257 received final passage in the Utah House last Friday in a 58-16 vote largely along party lines.

Details: The restrictions for transgender people also apply to sex-segregated locker rooms, showers and restrooms in public facilities and in K-12 schools unless their gender identity matches their birth certificate or they had gender-affirming surgery.

  • The law directs government entities to include a certain number of single-occupant restrooms and locker rooms in new buildings.
  • The law also defines the legal definition of "male" and female" by a person's genitalia instead of their gender identity.

State of play: The quick-moving measure, co-sponsored by state Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan) and state Sen. Dan McCay (R-Riverton), was first made public earlier this month.

  • As state lawmakers weighed potential constitutional challenges, the bill went through multiple back-and-forth iterations before passing in both chambers.

The big picture: It's the latest measure from the Republican-controlled state Legislature that would further restrict the rights of transgender Utahns by prohibiting them from entering certain public facilities.

Of note: Utah Senate President Stuart Adams last Friday told reporters the bill "has very little to do with the trans community," maintaining the intent was to protect women.

  • Utah Democrats and LGBTQ+ advocates have said the bill wrongfully targets transgender Utahns.
  • "We still hold the position that transgender Americans have the freedom and liberty to access facilities within public spaces," the LGBTQ+ civil rights group Equality Utah said in a statement last week.
  • "We will continue meeting with lawmakers throughout the session to advocate on their behalf."

Flashback: Cox in 2022 vetoed a bill that aimed to ban transgender girls from competing in school sports that align with their gender identity.

  • His veto was quickly overridden by the state Legislature.
  • The following year, Cox signed an even more restrictive bill into law that prohibited gender-affirming care for most transgender youth.

Zoom out: Zoom out: Through a preliminary order, a federal judge last month blocked Idaho's gender-affirming health care ban for transgender youth, per ABC News.

  • "Time and again, these cases illustrate that the Fourteenth Amendment's primary role is to protect disfavored minorities and preserve our fundamental rights from legislative overreach ... and it is no less true for transgender children and their parents in the 21st Century," District Court Judge Lynn Winmill said in his decision, according to ABC News.

Go deeper: Utah's anti-transgender bathroom proposal sparks questions about false reports

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