Transgender bathroom bill revised: bill moves forward

Jan 24, 2024, 1:02 PM | Updated: 7:23 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill involving transgender bathroom use has passed a second reading in the Senate following significant changes.

The bill needs one more passage in the Senate before it’s approved fully by that body. Then it will have to go back to the House for approval on the changes before heading to the Governor’s desk.

HB257 initially required individuals to use the bathroom designated for their sex at birth — unless they had undergone transgender surgery and legally changed their gender on their birth certificate.

On Wednesday, the bill was altered and currently does not bar transgender people from entering the bathroom that matches their gender identity in government owned and operated facilities, but the sex-based restrictions are still in place for locker rooms and public schools. The new version also takes out sex-based restrictions for domestic violence shelters.

The bill’s senate sponsor, Sen. Dan McCay, R-Salt Lake City, explained that the bill was intended to focus on those who commit lewd and offensive behavior in a privacy space, no matter the gender.

To that end, the new version also enhances criminal charges for those who commit offensive behavior in a bathroom.

“I think the intent was to try and prevent, you know, behavior. And all along that’s been the focus is trying to prevent behavior and make, you know, private spaces safer. And so I think focusing on the behavior of what happens and makes makes a private space not feel safe, I think that is really the most important part of the bill,” he said.

The revised bill would still require future government buildings to provide more options for privacy in changing rooms.

After McCay introduced the changes on the Senate floor, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-Salt Lake City, said the new version allowed him to change his vote.

“Removing the sex designations related to restrooms and focusing on the behavior is a huge change,” he said.

Democrats said they’re not ready to support the bill yet, but they do like the changes.

“We feel that’s a better approach to dealing with issues of privacy and addressing, you know, any illegal activity,” said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.

Equality Utah issued a statement saying that there were “key changes but continuing concerns.” Specifically, the language still requiring sex-designations in schools.

“We remain gravely concerned that transgender students in schools will be marginalized by this legislation, and that their safety and privacy will be endangered. The restrictions for Utah public school students, if passed, are constitutionally problematic and will likely lead to litigation,” the organization wrote on X.

McCay credited the House Sponsor, Rep. Kera Birkeland R-Morgan, with listening to feedback on the change that led to the bill being more targeted on the criminal actions that happen in a bathroom.

“That’s honestly the most humbling part is you start out with an idea and you’re drafted a certain way and, you know, it just kind of fumbles through the process, and the rough edges come off, at least most of them, and you’re trying to make better policy that makes the state of a better place,” McCay said.

For government entities, the bill specifies that a report of lewdness, lewdness involving a child, voyeurism, criminal trespass, or loitering in a privacy space must be referred to law enforcement, and failure to report violations may result in a $10,000 fine if unresolved.

For individuals, it would enhance penalties for individuals who commit any of the following crimes: lewdness, lewdness involving a child, voyeurism, criminal trespass, or loitering in a privacy space.

This article previously said the bill passed in the Senate Committee Hearing, it has since been corrected.

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Transgender bathroom bill revised: bill moves forward