POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Proposed Utah bill mandates who can use what public bathroom

Jan 12, 2024, 9:00 PM | Updated: May 29, 2024, 11:37 am

The State Auditor has found just five viable complaints, out of thousands, related to the state’s...

The State Auditor has found just five viable complaints, out of thousands, related to the state’s new “bathroom bill.” (Stock)

(Stock)

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed bill unveiled on Utah’s Capitol Hill would require that people use the bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in publicly funded buildings.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan Utahns have given a lot of feedback on the bill already. Some of it has been quite negative. However, she said the bill doesn’t discriminate against anyone.

“It really tries to make sure that we’re not just saying ‘No you can’t go in there.’ We’re saying, you know, that’s not the best place for everyone’s privacy’s sake for you to be,” she said. “But here’s a place where everyone can feel protected with their privacy.”

HB 257 does allow someone who has legally changed the sex on their birth certificate or had a medical procedure to match the sex of the bathroom they are using. It also suggests that government-funded buildings should have more unisex and single-occupancy bathrooms.

Birkeland said she has worked on this bill for the past year to make it right.

“The biggest part of all of this is; if you go in, and you do take care of your private business in a private and respectful manner, you’re most likely never going to draw any concern or criticism if this bill passes.,” she said.

She’s confident it’ll pass this session.

“We might make a substitute here and there to ensure that we didn’t miss anything and the policy is something that we won’t have to later defend in court,” Birkeland said.

Reservations on the bill

Marina Lowe, the policy director for Equality Utah had some reservations for the bill.

“When you are creating restrictions where you are differentiating between one group of people and another group of people, you immediately run into problems,” Lowe said.

One thing that stood out to her is the bill doesn’t cover how these restrictions will be enforced.

“What happens if someone is wrongly accused? How do you prove that you were in the correct bathroom? Who makes these decisions?” Lowe said.

However, Birkeland said the bill isn’t about enforcement. It is about having guidelines in place for law enforcement.

“They don’t want to have to wait until it comes to that so they know how to proceed,” Birkeland said. “They really want to make sure there’s a well laid out plan of certain behaviors, certain improper uses that are not going to be allowed here in our state.”

Lowe does believe the LGBTQ+ community and lawmakers can meet in the middle of this issue. The answer? Single-stall bathrooms.

“That provides, I think, the solution that is most workable and most respecting of people’s legal rights and of their dignity,” Lowe said.

Keep reading: Where the law stands on transgender athletes competing in Utah

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Proposed Utah bill mandates who can use what public bathroom