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Utah Gov. signs anti-trans bathroom bill, which advocates say is 'harassment in the most private of settings'

Utah Governor Spencer Cox signs anti trans bathroom bill high school student affected transgender bans
UTAH STATE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR; Shutterstock

HB 257 defines a “women’s bathroom” and “men’s bathroom” as spaces exclusively designated for females and males, and includes criminal penalties for those found in violation.

Utah's contentious transgender bathroom ban is officially signed into law after Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill late Tuesday, per multiple outlets, just days after state lawmakers pushed the legislation through.

HB 257 changes the state’s legal definitions of “female” and “male,” defining the terms based solely by one's reproductive organs. It defines a “women’s bathroom” and “men’s bathroom” as spaces exclusively designated for females and males, respectively.

The bill includes criminal penalties for people who use “changing rooms" that do not align with their biological sex in government-owned and run buildings, which include public schools, courthouses, libraries, recreation centers, airports, and some sporting arenas. It also criminalizes using restrooms “if the actor intentionally or knowingly remains unlawfully.”

A previous version of the bill featured criminal penalties against children using bathrooms that don't align with their sex assigned at birth, which was removed before the legislature approved the bill Friday.

There are other limited exceptions for transgender adults who have undergone surgery and updated their birth certificates, which is a legal impossibility in some states. Gender-affirming care is also banned for those under the age of 18 in Utah.

Transgender students are required to use a “privacy plan” created with their school. The legislature passed a similar law prohibiting transgender girls from playing girls high school sports two years ago, which has since been blocked in courts by a lawsuit from student athletes who argue it is unconstitutional, as it singles them out over their gender identity.

Gov. Cox initially vetoed the 2022 transgender sports bill, but was overridden by the state House or Representatives and Senate. He signed the gender-affirming care ban in January, 2023. The bill's passage marks the third year in a row where the Utah legislature has targeted LGBTQ+ people, and the second year in a row they have done so in the first few weeks of their legislative session.

Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson called the bill "an invasion of the privacy of Utahns."

“No student should be denied access to the bathroom that aligns with who they are," she said in a statement last week. "No one should fear harassment in the most private of settings. Period.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.