Utah House hopeful Trevor Lee defends tweets on LGBTQ community, LDS church
LAYTON — The GOP hopeful for the District 16 Utah House seat is largely defending his comments in a now-deleted Twitter account that he used to express unease with the LGBTQ community, to muse about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and more.
Trevor Lee said he deleted the private @ballinlee account — first publicly reported on by the Salt Lake Tribune last Friday — in light of his status as a candidate for public office. He’s vying for a Layton-area seat in the Utah House and faces a write-in challenge from Steve Handy, the incumbent and GOPer who Lee defeated in the Davis County Republican Party convention last March.
“That’s why I deleted it, because it’s getting in the way of issues and stuff,” Lee said Monday. Two others are in the race, Libertarian Brent Zimmerman and a second write-in candidate, Steve Fershtut.
Most of Lee’s tweets were sent before he became the GOP nominee for the seat and were meant as private communication with like-minded acquaintances to spark conversation and discussion, he says. Aside from expressing consternation with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community, he tweeted what he said were meant to be humorous takes on male-female stereotypes and offered his views on issues related to the church.
The Standard-Examiner also received screenshots of some of the same tweets referenced in the Salt Lake Tribune article and Lee bristled when asked if the Twitter messages were reflective of his views, particularly on gay marriage and the transgender community. Lee used the display name “Truth seeker” for his twitter account, not his real name, but acknowledged that it was his.
“Is what me? That I believe in the traditional family? That I don’t think children should be able to mutilate themselves? Yes that’s me. I believe in the traditional family,” led by a married man and woman, he told the Standard-Examiner. The “destruction of the family is the cause of every issue that we’re having in society.”
The Utah and Davis County Republican Party platforms, he noted, also espouse “the traditional family,” as does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through “The family” proclamation. Lee is a member of the church.
One of the tweets, a response to a March 13, 2022, tweet from Richard Ostler, a church member who advocates for the LGBTQ community, offered a harsh take on transgender people. “Trans people need help. Let’s never encourage what they’re doing,” Lee wrote.
He elaborated in talking to the Standard-Examiner. “If a boy’s a boy, they’re a boy. If a girl’s a girl, they’re a girl. If you tell them otherwise, that’s harmful to them,” Lee said.
In one tweet, he swiped at Gov. Spencer Cox, who had vetoed a measure during the 2022 legislative session aimed at preventing transgender girls from competing in girls scholastic sports. Lawmakers later voted to override the veto.
A twitter user called on moving the Utah Jazz to Las Vegas in an April 28, 2022, tweet. “Yes, than [sic] our spineless governor can stop acting like he needs to let transsexuals destroy our girls in sports,” Lee responded, apparently referencing pressure from the NBA against measures limiting athletic participation by transgender girls.
Lee took issue with any suggestion that his outlook should be seen as unreasonable or off limits. “Those are beliefs that I have. That’s not attacking any individual there. It’s a different viewpoint than someone else might have. It doesn’t mean it’s bigoted and it doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” he said.
Still, others weren’t so understanding.
Equality Utah, a group that advocates for the LGBTQ community, issued a statement lamenting the “vile and extreme bigotry toward LGBTQ Utahns” shown by Lee. The group also zeroed in on the fact that Lee — who came under fire earlier this year for comments deemed “transphobic” by the Davis County Republican Party — didn’t use his name on the Twitter account.
“We do not cower behind false identities or secret social media accounts. We live openly and freely in the state and country we call home,” Troy Williams, the Equality Utah executive director, said in a statement. “And that’s something that Trevor Lee fears. By creating a false identity, Mr. Lee has proven that he doesn’t possess a fraction of the strength or character of Utah’s transgender community. Bullies never do.”
Handy, who’s waging the write-in candidacy against Lee, noted that after being rebuked by the Davis County Republican Party over his earlier comments about the transgender community, Lee is now facing criticism from Utah House leadership. House Speaker Brad Wilson and House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, both Republicans, rebuked Lee in comments to the Salt Lake Tribune, chiefly for tweeting anonymously.
“I’m a defender of traditional family, too. But I recognize everyone’s right as an American. We cannot marginalize any segment of the community,” Handy said. He launched his uphill write-in bid in part in response to Lee’s comments last spring about the transgender community.
Despite the tone of the tweets, Lee said he would represent everyone in District 16 if elected, even the LGBTQ community.
“Of course, that’s why I deleted the Twitter account, because moving forward I will always listen to these people. I’ll listen to anyone, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to make me compromise my morals and values,” he said.
In two other tweets that touched on male-female stereotypes, Lee offered what he said were meant to be humorous takes. In response to a tweet about laundering garments worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he suggested that men shouldn’t clean clothes. “Don’t under any circumstances do the laundry. It’s not your job,” Lee wrote in response to the male tweeter.
In responding to a tweet about females driving while men sit in passenger seats, Lee tweeted: “Yes I would appreciate not cruising in the fast lane behind women.”
In speaking with the Standard-Examiner, however, he said to think he’d pursue action in the legislature related to female drivers is absurd.
“Really? You think I’m going to make it so women can’t drive? Really? Come on,” he said. “Anyone that’s a normal human being understands when someone’s trying to be joking and humorful.”
Lee also tweeted out his thoughts on varied issues related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes using the #DezNat hashtag, associated with ardent supporters of the church. Brigham Young University in Provo, operated by the church, was a particular object of scorn for Lee stemming from his view that it strays from church orthodoxy.
“Byu needs to be cleansed,” Lee wrote in one tweet, responding to another tweet about apparent efforts to root out BYU professors who address topics like the LGBTQ community and critical race theory.
He called the university “a progressive cesspool” in another tweet, responding to an official university tweet expressing concern over Brad Wilcox’s controversial comments last February related to race. Wilcox, a church leader, had been discussing priesthood for Black church members, comments that prompted an outcry from some, according to the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.
With regard to one tweet — that teachers “should be paid less not more” — Lee said he’s changed his view. “That tweet, I have learned a lot about the education system and I don’t agree with that one at all,” Lee said.
Election Day is Nov. 8.