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Lawmakers apologize for transgender comments on Twitter

By Madeleine Brown and Nkoyo Iyamba  |  Posted Feb 4th, 2014 @ 9:02pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is apologizing for a tweet he sent Monday and is now participating in sensitivity training.

The tweet was meant to be a joke according to Rep. Jake Anderegg. Instead, the tweet flared tempers and caused outrage on social media from around the country as being insensitive to the LGBT community. And Anderegg has been apologizing for the past 24 hours.

"It was off the cuff," Anderegg. "It was bad judgment. It was totally inappropriate and I've apologized."

Monday, Anderegg sent a tweet that stated he'd consider changing his identity so that he could use the ladies restroom because the private men's restroom was occupied.

A reply from Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser's account then called Anderegg "…a new man, erm, woman."

Niederhauser said that tweet was sent by an intern. He also called for sensitivity training at the Capitol Monday night. Eight members of the LGBT community, along with at least 25 interns, some senators, and Anderegg attended the meeting.

One of the questions asked during that meeting said Brandie Balken, Executive Director, Equality Utah, was why the twitter conversation could be seen as offensive by some.

"Would we think it was funny to say ‘Oh, there's no parking. The handicap stall is open,'" Balken explained an analogy she heard given by someone at the meeting. "I'm going to go ahead and cut off my legs so I can park in the handicap parking. That's not funny.'"

The lives of people in the LGBT community should not be mocked, "Our lives, our identities are not an act of convenience," Balken said.

Unfortunately, today my intern took some liberties to tweet on my account. The tweet does not reflect anything that I believe in.

–Senate Pres. Wayne Niederhauser

"As we seek to build a better Utah, and a better society," added Balken. "It's always good to remember that even if the experience that someone has is vastly different from our own, it still deserves respect and it still deserves to be treated with sensitivity."

The meeting served as additional training to the orientation interns already receive.

"We provide workplace harassment and antidiscrimination training to our interns. We ask them to be sensitive and to be careful," said Nathan Brady, Legislative Intern Director. "Unfortunately, you can't cover every possible situation. Sometimes mistakes are made."

The intern who tweeted a response to Anderegg's tweet had permission to use Neiderhauser's account according to Brady but he said she went too far.

"She's distraught (the intern). She didn't intend to offend or harm anybody," said Brady. "At the meeting, we all got some education and I can only assume that we all learned a lot."

At this point, Anderegg said the meeting was a positive experience for him.

"As an elected official, I'm expected to be well rounded," he said. "In at least my knowledge of what the issues are and how it affects all people."

Others who attended the meeting also said it was very positive. While they didn't agree on political issues, they learned a lot from each other, and even plan on having future meetings.

Maine ruling
The highest court in Maine ruled last week that school officials violated state antidiscrimination law when they prevented a transgender fifth-grader from using the girls' bathroom. The student is a biological male who identified as a girl from the age of 2.

Blue notes calling for the Legislature to hear SB100 covered the Senate doors Monday morning. Niederhauser said the notes show the energy behind the antidiscrimination issue, which he said is a "sister and companion" to the same-sex marriage issue.

"I think it highlights the need for us to do as we’re working on, to say this is an emotional time. Let’s stop and pull our faculties here together and address other issues this session and wait for the process in the appeal to take place, and we’ll come back at another time and address religious liberties and antidiscrimination," he said.

Still to be determined is whether HB87 would be lumped into that category. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, would define gender and ensure students use school restrooms assigned to their gender.

If it passes, students would only use allowed to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender, which the bill defines as the gender phenotype on a person's birth certificate or as specified by a physician's document — not the individual's own declaration of gender.

The bill also requires schools to provide "reasonable bathroom accommodations upon request of certain students."

When asked if he knew of any cases of this issue in Utah, Kennedy said no.

Beyond that, Kennedy said, he had no comment on the bill because it is being "conflated" with marriage and other issues. He was referencing Niederhauser's comments last week about holding off on legislation dealing with marriage definitions and LGBT rights.

Kennedy did said, however, that he doesn't believe his bill should be wrapped up in those other issues.


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