Trans activists flood Utah’s bathroom tip line with hoax reports

In a concerted effort to protect transgender residents and their allies from potential investigations, transgender activists have inundated a newly established Utah tip line with thousands of hoax reports. The tip line was created to alert state officials to possible violations of a controversial new bathroom law.

Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers and Gov. Spencer Cox swiftly passed a bill regulating bathroom access, but the law’s implementation May 1 has been far from smooth. Schools have adopted varied approaches, and an enforcement tip line has been overwhelmed with hoax reports, frustrating the state auditor.

At his May news conference, Cox acknowledged the law’s uncertain effectiveness, stating, “the effectiveness of the bill remains to be seen.” Despite highlighting potential fixes, he emphasized that “the intent of the bill,” which is “protecting women in women’s spaces,” would stay intact. “Like with any bill, I think there will be a time where we learn from it, see what’s working, what’s not working, and we’ll come back and figure out ways to make it work better,” Cox said.

The law tasked the Office of the State Auditor with managing a tip line for reporting government entities not complying with the law. Auditor John Dougall, responsible for vetting these reports, has since dealt with thousands of “frivolous complaints.”

Dougall, who is also running for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, criticized the legislature for the bill’s rushed passage.

“I recognize that many Utahns feel trampled by an invasive and overly aggressive legislature that too often fails to seek input from those most affected,” Dougall stated. “The legislature crafted these public policies, and only the legislature can revise them.”

In a video posted to X, Dougall expressed his frustration with his new role as “bathroom monitor,” arguing that the law wasn’t genuinely intended to protect women and girls in private spaces.

“If this bill were actually about making girls safer, you would think the legislature would actually spend some money retrofitting bathrooms and providing greater privacy and greater safety,” he said.

Since its launch, the online tip line has received over 10,000 submissions, none of which appear legitimate. The form invites people to report public school employees who knowingly allow individuals to use facilities designated for the opposite sex. Under the new law, Utah residents and visitors must use bathrooms and changing rooms in government-owned buildings that correspond with their birth sex. Schools and agencies not enforcing these restrictions face fines of up to $10,000 per day for each violation.

Despite failing to stop the passage of restrictive laws in many states, the transgender community has found success in disrupting the enforcement of these laws. Within hours of the tip line’s launch, activists spread the information widely on social media, sharing the spam they submitted and encouraging others to participate.

This strategy is not new. Similar tip lines in at least five other states have been overwhelmed with hoax reports, leading some to shut down. In Virginia, Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana, and Missouri, activists have targeted tip lines designed to report teachers, librarians, and administrators for discussing race, LGBTQ+ identities, or other topics deemed inappropriate by lawmakers. Both the Virginia and Missouri tip lines were taken down within a year.

Prominent trans activist and legislative researcher Erin Reed explained that the community views submitting hoax reports as a protective measure. “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,” Reed said. “If there are 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 form responses, it’s going to be much harder for the auditor’s office to sift through every one of them and find the one legitimate trans person who was caught using a bathroom.”

Dougall’s office has faced numerous nonsensical reports and more credible-seeming but still fake complaints. His team has spent the past weeks sifting through these submissions, which often include fake names or locations.

Despite the activists’ efforts, the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Kera Birkeland and Sen. Dan McCay remain confident in the tip line’s effectiveness.

“It’s not surprising that activists are taking the time to send false reports,” Birkeland said, emphasizing the legislation’s intended protection for women across Utah. McCay, unaware of the activist-driven flood of reports, stated he does not plan to alter the law’s enforcement.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates warn that the law and the tip line allow for indiscriminate questioning of individuals’ gender in public spaces, potentially affecting those who are not transgender. These concerns were highlighted when a Utah school board member, who publicly questioned the gender of a high school basketball player wrongly assumed to be transgender, lost her reelection bid earlier this year.

Utah recently joined a lawsuit with three other GOP-led states challenging the U.S. Department of Education’s new Title IX rule. Cox expressed his support for the lawsuit, which opposes the Biden administration’s changes aimed at adding protections for transgender students, including allowing transgender students to participate in sports and use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

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