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  /  News   /  Utah bathroom bill tip line flooded with 10K ‘bogus’ complaints

Utah bathroom bill tip line flooded with 10K ‘bogus’ complaints

SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) — In the week since Utah’s tip line to help enforce a controversial new bathroom law went live, it’s been flooded with thousands of fake complaints.

“As of yesterday, we had received over 10,000 bogus complaints via the online form,” State Auditor John Dougall told Nexstar on Thursday. “None appear to be legitimate.”

Dougall’s office had posted an online complaint form in accordance with House Bill 275, which restricts transgender people from using state-owned bathrooms and changing rooms that don’t align with their sex assigned at birth. (The bill does not apply to privately-owned facilities.)

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The form, posted last Wednesday, was created to alert state officials to possible violations of the law.

The new rule took effect when Gov. Spencer Cox signed H.B. 257 into law on Jan. 30, though certain provisions in the legislation were delayed until last Wednesday to allow schools and other government entities to become compliant. Under the bill, school children are required to use public school restrooms that align with their birth gender.

On Twitter/X, users immediately began ridiculing the new complaint hotline, with one calling it a “snitch form.” Another user posted screenshots of them filling out the form with the lyrics of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” a nod to the classic internet meme prank.

Most of the bogus complaints submitted in the following days came from people upset about the bathroom legislation, Dougall told NewsNation affiliate KTVX last week, adding that it’s the duty of his office to receive the complaints and possibly investigate them.

“I understand that people are concerned, but they should redirect their concern to drive policy change where it’s most effective and in a manner that’s most effective,” he said. “Because this behavior doesn’t drive change.”

Dougall, in a statement published Tuesday, also sounded resentful for being tasked with handling the complaints — real or fake.

“The Office created the complaint form to comply with a statutory mandate — a role we
did not request,” the lengthy statement read, in part. “Indeed, no auditor sets out to become a bathroom monitor.”

The online complaint form was launched May 1 to gather tips about possible violations at specific government-run entities, such as schools or agency buildings. The form is not meant to target individuals who might have violated the law.

Should the auditor’s office receive a legitimate complaint and investigators deem there was a violation, the related government entity could face fines up to $10,000 per violation per day.

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What does the bathroom bill do?

State Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, the bill’s main sponsor, pitched the legislation this last session as a means to protect the privacy of women and girls from those who might claim to be transgender to gain access to a private space. The full title of the bill is “Sex-based Designations for Privacy, Anti-bullying, and Women’s Opportunities.”

Transgender people in Utah pushed back against the bill, saying it unfairly targets them.

Under the law, schools, government agencies and other state-run entities are required to contact law enforcement if they receive a complaint or allegation of law-breaking in a state-run “privacy space,” such as a bathroom or changing room.

This law-breaking includes lewdness, voyeurism and accessing a state-run changing room that does not correspond to a user’s sex at birth. The latter offense is marked under the new law as criminal trespass.

However, there are exceptions carved out for transgender adults who’ve legally amended their birth certificate and undergone gender-affirming surgery. The bill also directs new state buildings to include single-occupancy facilities.

For bathrooms, the law makes it so that adults can be charged with enhanced penalties of voyeurism, lewdness or loitering if the crimes are committed in a facility that doesn’t align with the perpetrator’s sex at birth.

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Equality Utah, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, highlighted that the law carries no legal consequences for transgender Utahns who use a bathroom that aligns with their identity, just as long as they are not engaging in inappropriate behavior.

“People should feel free to use bathrooms in Utah without fear of being reported,” the group said.

Ellie Menlove, legislative and policy consul for ACLU of Utah, another civil rights group, told KTVX that the new law and related complaint form create an environment where transgender people, or those perceived to be so, are forced to endure bullying and harassment.

“The form launched by the Utah State Auditor encourages individuals to infringe on Utahns’ right to privacy in bathrooms and other personal spaces,” Menlove said in a statement. “This is an effort to intimidate and single out gender-diverse people, including transgender and nonbinary people — full stop.”

According to Dougall, the state auditor, the fake complaints received over the last few days don’t take much time to deal with. Still, this is the first time his office has felt the impact of people “lashing out from across the nation.”

In his statement Tuesday, Dougall also reiterated that his office was merely mandated to post the form and wasn’t informed of the details by any of the bill’s sponsors until it “was rushed to final passage.”

“I tell folks, our job is to enforce the law and get the complaints,” he told KTVX. “Concerns of public policy should really be directed toward the legislature.”