Truth Test: Lawmaker behind trans bathroom bill cites ‘predators’ but no evidence

Jan 19, 2024, 6:56 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — The state lawmaker seeking to restrict transgender Utahns from using public bathrooms aligning with their gender identity says the move is needed because of “multiple reports of perpetrators going into the women’s facilities in our state for improper purposes.”  

But when asked by the KSL Investigators to provide copies of the reports, bill sponsor Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, did not respond.  

Instead, Alexa Musselman, director of communications for the Utah House of Representatives, told KSL that “Rep. Birkeland received several complaints/examples from constituents and elected officials but was given the information in confidence.” Musselman did not answer follow-up questions about those conversations. 

Birkeland’s comments, made at the Legislature this week and on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) echo prior statements from supporters of similar legislation passed in other states.  Advocates for transgender rights have called these assertions misleading and distracting. 

The Utah House passed the bill Friday, sending it to the Senate for approval. In a speech just before the vote – and a day after KSL asked her for more information – Birkeland shared an anecdote that she said came from someone in her district about an 8-year-old girl who “came out of the restroom to a grown man in there with her. And it terrified her. Nothing could be done.” She did not elaborate further. 

In her earlier online post, Birkeland said she has “received multiple reports of perpetrators going into women’s facilities in our state for improper purposes and they do it under the pretext of being something they are not— they are predators seeking to harm women at the expense of transgender individuals.” 

KSL asked several Utah law enforcement agencies, along with the Utah Board of Education, about any examples of what Birkeland described in the post. Ryan Bartlett, spokesman for the Utah State Board of Education, said he couldn’t find any brought to the office’s attention. 

A public information officer for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office – in Birkeland’s district – said he was not aware of any suspects entering women’s or girl’s restrooms because they felt enabled by transgender people’s access to the public facilities. The Utah County Sheriff’s Office and Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office said the same.  

During Wednesday’s hearing of the House Business and Labor Committee, Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, pressed Birkeland for examples. Birkeland replied, “Unfortunately, today, I can’t provide a police report or anything like that.” 

The proposal would prevent transgender Utahns from using gender-specific restrooms of their choice unless they have legally changed their gender on their birth certificate and had gender reassignment surgery. 

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you. 

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Truth Test: Lawmaker behind trans bathroom bill cites ‘predators’ but no evidence