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Utah lawmakers back away from offensive ‘changing gender’ tweets

First Published Feb 03 2014 02:02 pm • Last Updated Feb 04 2014 11:04 am

Two Utah lawmakers — including Senate President Wayne Niederhauser — apologized Monday for a Twitter exchange about changing genders that drew quick outrage on social media.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, posted Monday morning on Twitter that the private House men’s restroom was occupied, and he was "strongly considering a gender identifying change to use the open women’s."

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That drew a response from Niederhauser’s account, teasing Anderegg for agreeing to co-sponsor a bill banning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns — the result of a computer glitch Friday — "now switching your gender identity? Just can’t keep up with you! You’re a new man. Er … woman."

The exchange drew instant outrage from other Twitter users, who scolded both lawmakers for making light of serious issue that has been at the forefront this legislative session.

In addition to the nondiscrimination issue, lawmakers are proposing bills requiring transgender people to use the restroom of their gender at birth and a series of other bills relating to same-sex marriage.

"To see them joking around like that, it’s hurtful and painful," said Claire, a transgender Utahn who asked her real name not be used. "It’s just upsetting that politicians always distill transgender issues down to our genitals and using the bathroom and ignore all the rest of the experiences to reduce our struggle down to those two issues and then make social media jokes about it."

Both lawmakers apologized for the tweets.

Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the tweets were actually sent by his intern who "took some liberties."

"It’s an embarrassing situation for me, and it’s an embarrassing situation for her," Niederhauser said. "The tweet does not reflect anything I believe in. I have deep respect for the people in the LGBT community and continue to do so."

Niederhauser said he invited the group Equality Utah to the Capitol on Monday evening to discuss the sensitivity of LGBT issues.

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Anderegg said he didn’t mean to be insulting, but didn’t understand the sensitivity of the issue.

"I completely own it. It was inappropriate. … It was an offhand, stupid comment and I was trying to be funny," he said. "The truth is I probably need to be a little more brought up to speed on the issue. It’s obviously very sensitive, in which case a tweet like that probably means something very hurtful to someone and I didn’t realize it was."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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