Utah's Transgender Bathroom Tip Line Doesn't Go as Planned

Instead of legit reports, activists flood it with thousands of hoaxes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 8, 2024 2:08 PM CDT
Unexpected Calls Flood Utah's Transgender Bathroom Tip Line
Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland looks on from the House floor, Feb. 1, 2024, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. Transgender activists have flooded a Utah tip line created to alert state officials to violations of a new bathroom law with thousands of hoax reports.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Transgender activists have flooded a Utah tip line created to alert state officials to possible violations of a new bathroom law with thousands of hoax reports. As the AP reports, it's an effort to shield trans residents and their allies from any legitimate complaints that could lead to an investigation. The onslaught has led the state official tasked by law with managing the tip line, Utah Auditor John Dougall, to bemoan getting stuck with the cumbersome task of filtering through fake complaints while also facing backlash for enforcing a law he had no role in passing. "No auditor goes into auditing so they can be the bathroom monitors," Dougall said Tuesday.

The auditor's office has received some 10,000 reports in its first week—many Dougall described as "total nonsense," while others he said at first appear credible and take much longer to filter out, but none of which seem legitimate. The form asks people to report public school employees who knowingly allow someone to use a facility designated for the opposite sex. As of last Wednesday, schools and agencies found not enforcing the new restrictions can be fined up to $10,000 per day per violation.

Although their advocacy efforts failed to stop GOP lawmakers in many states from passing restrictions for trans people, the community has found success in interfering with the enforcement attached to those laws. Within hours of its publication Wednesday night, trans activists and community members from across the US already had spread the Utah tip line widely on social media.

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"There will be people who are trans that go into bathrooms that are potentially reported by these sorts of forms, and so the community is taking on a protective role," says Erin Reed, a prominent trans activist and legislative researcher. "If there are 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 form responses that are entered in, it's going to be much harder for the auditor's office to ... find the one legitimate trans person who was caught using a bathroom." The bill's sponsor remains confident in the tip line. "It's not surprising that activists are taking the time to send false reports," Rep. Kera Birkeland says. "But that isn't a distraction from the importance of the legislation and the protection it provides women across Utah." (More transgender stories.)

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