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Utah House passes bill that restricts all trans people's use of bathrooms in the state — and threatens jail

Utah state Reps. Kera Birkland and Sahara Haye
twitter/x @kerabirk;

H.B. 257 would not only ban transgender folks from many public facilities but also call for jail time.

On Friday, Utah became the first U.S. state to pass legislation targeting the transgender community in the new year. The state’s House of Representatives voted 52 to 17 along party lines in favor of H.B. 257. The bill is “Sex-Based Designations for Privacy” and could send some transgender individuals to prison for using public locker rooms, restrooms, and other facilities that align with their gender identity.

H.B. 257 would deny transgender folks access to a wide swath of public facilities aligned with their gender identity including locker rooms, restrooms, rape crisis and services centers, as well as temporary shelters for victims of abuse. The bill calls for criminal penalties of up to six months in jail for repeat violators as well as criminal penalties for those who make repeated false accusations against cisgender folks.

Democratic Rep. Sahara Haye, the state’s only openly queer legislator, expressed her fears about the bill during a hearing last week.

“I’m scared for every transgender person who has to choose between holding their bladder or potentially being seen as a criminal,” Haye said during a hearing last week according to Deseret News.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland, told the House that “any man could walk into any women's facilities, and there's nothing that can be done” in defense of the bill.

While the bill provides exceptions to those who have undergone affirmative surgery and changed the gender markers on their birth certificates, independent LGBTQ+ journalist Erin Reed pointed out the bill later appears to override these exceptions by reverting to an individual’s sex assigned at birth.

Reed also noted the bill would be difficult to enforce.

The bill is causing some, including Haye, to reconsider whether they can remain in Utah.

"I don't want to leave this place,” Haye told fellow legislators last week. “But what kind of life am I asking my loved ones to lead if they cannot go to the bathroom in safety in public?”

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