Utah governor signs bill to throw trans people in jail for using the correct facilities

Transgender youths in an outdoor city space hold protest signs declaring that "trans rights are human rights."
Trans youth protesting in Philadelphia Photo: Shutterstock

A bill that creates criminal penalties for many transgender people who use the bathroom associated with their gender has been signed into law by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R).

The bill, H.B. 257, says that people can only enter the restroom of their sex assigned at birth in publicly-owned facilities, which includes schools and other government-owned buildings. It also creates an exemption for transgender people who have had bottom surgery and those who have had the gender marker on their birth certificate corrected. The bill includes locker rooms and other facilities.

Under H.B. 257, transgender people who have not had such surgery and have not updated their birth certificates but who use the restroom or locker room associated with their gender can be charged with lewdness, lewdness involving a child, voyeurism, loitering in a privacy space, or, in the case of locker rooms specifically, criminal trespass.

Voyeurism is a class A misdemeanor in Utah, punishable with up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, and a third-degree felony – punishable with five years in prison and up to a $5000 fine – if a child is present. Criminal trespass is a class B misdemeanor, punishable with up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine.

Government-owned institutions that don’t enforce these rules can be fined up to $10,000 per violation per day.

“It is extreme legislation that explicitly retrofits the crimes of voyeurism and criminal trespass in the state to allow for the prosecution of many transgender people for using the right bathroom,” wrote Chris Geidner of Law Dork.

“We want public facilities that are safe and accommodating for everyone and this bill increases privacy protections for all,” Gov. Cox said in a statement announcing that he had signed the bill.

“This bill is an invasion of the privacy of Utahns,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said in a statement. “No student should be denied access to the bathroom that aligns with who they are. No one should fear harassment in the most private of settings. Period.”

“This bill is not necessary. Current Utah law already provides criminal penalties for harassment and assault in restrooms and public spaces,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to the governor this week. “H.B. 257 does not provide additional protection for women in these spaces. All it does is invite scrutiny of people who are transgender or perceived to be transgender when they are lawfully going about their lives.”

The Senate approved H.B. 257 last Thursday by a 21–8 vote, with only two Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it.

As the Senate voted, around 100 people gathered on the Utah Capitol steps to voice their opposition to the bill, urging Gov. Cox to veto it.

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