Equality Utah decries vandalism of senator’s home

The home of Utah state Sen. Mike Kennedy, a Republican lawmaker from Utah County, was targeted in an act of vandalism following his sponsorship of a bill that prohibits transgender surgeries and medical interventions for minors in the state. The incident sparked condemnation from both opponents and supporters of Senate Bill 16, while Kennedy himself vows not to “back down.”

Kennedy took to social media to share a photo revealing the extent of the damage inflicted on his property. The message, spray-painted in red on his garage doors, walls, and driveway, contained a derogatory slur aimed at transgender individuals and read, “these trannies bash back.”

Local law enforcement, the Lone Peak Police Department, received notification of the vandalism at around 7:30 a.m. on April 21.

“The suspects appear to have targeted the senator based on legislation that recently passed in the last legislative session. Officers are working diligently to gather evidence to find the suspects involved,” a statement from the department said.

SB16, sponsored by Senator Kennedy, was passed during Utah’s 2023 General Session and quickly signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox. The bill received support solely from Republican legislators, while civil rights organizations have threatened legal action to temporarily halt its implementation. The law, effective since January 28, prohibits transgender surgeries for minors and restricts new treatments like puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

Responding to the vandalism, Kennedy released a statement through the Utah Senate, asserting his unwavering commitment to his principles.

“To those who seek to use violence, vandalism, and intimidation to deter me from standing up for what is right, let me be clear: you will not succeed. I will not be deterred by your cowardly actions,” Kennedy wrote. “We will not let fear and violence control our destiny. As Utahns, we will always stand up and push back against radicals who seek to push their agenda in our state. I am more determined than ever to work with the good people of Utah to make our state a better place for all, especially our children, and I won’t back down.”

“I will not back down from fighting for what is right and just. Your attempt to threaten and silence me will only make me louder. I am more determined than ever to work with the good people of Utah toward a better future for our state,” Kennedy wrote on his Facebook page.

In response to the incident, both the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum and LGBTQ civil rights organization Equality Utah issued statements denouncing the act of vandalism.

The Utah Eagle Forum highlighted Kennedy’s courage in defending the welfare of Utah’s children and condemned the vandalism as a threat to his safety and an assault on the community’s shared values. They pledged to stand together in support of those who tirelessly work to protect children and uphold their common principles.

Equality Utah wrote that “we want to make it clear that Equality Utah condemns these tactics in the absolute strongest terms.”

“As LGBTQ Americans, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of violence. We know what it is like to fear for our own safety. It is never acceptable to replicate the violent or threatening tactics we have had to endure and target those with whom we have disagreements,” the statement read. “These heinous acts do not help LGBTQ Utahns. They do not advance a climate of equality. In fact, they harm our efforts to build bridges and create deeper understanding with our fellow Utahns.”

“We understand that many in our community are frightened by the unprecedented number of bills introduced across the country that directly impact LGBTQ youth. We work tirelessly with lawmakers to help them understand the complexity of these issues and to have compassion and empathy for our community. Because we have been able to develop meaningful relationships with many lawmakers with whom we have fundamental disagreements, we have been able to experience incredible progress in a very conservative state. We will never achieve equality unless we continue to actively build bridges of understanding through mutual respect,” the statement continued. “The culture wars are now escalating into real-world violence, and we all have an obligation to take a stand and condemn extremism wherever it manifests — be it acts of vandalism or political acts of violence.

Commenters on Kennedy’s Facebook page largely expressed their support for his stance on the issue, with many commending his commitment to public service and integrity. One individual even offered assistance in removing the paint from his home.

As the investigation into the vandalism continues, it remains to be seen how this incident will impact the ongoing discussions and the broader debate on transgender rights in Utah.

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