Utah bans transgender athletes from girls’ sports, overriding governor’s veto

State legislatures in Utah have voted to override Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto on a law banning transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports, despite his powerful veto letter stating “kindness, mercy and compassion ‘ were demanded.

On Monday, Republican Gov. Cox told the state Legislative leadership that only four transgender students in the state compete in high school sports and only one transgender student competes in women’s sports.

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” he wrote. “I don’t understand what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can significantly reduce suicidality.”

On Friday, the GOP-controlled House of the state voted 56-18 to overturn its veto, followed by a 21-8 vote in the state Senate.

At least a dozen states have moved to ban transgender athletes from the sport as Republican lawmakers and powerful conservative Christian groups promote legislation targeting LGBT+ youth, with the majority of bills targeting transgender youth.

More than 320 bills that would impact LGBT+ Americans are under consideration in state legislatures in the US, with about a third of those bills directly targeting transgender people, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

About half of these bills would ban transgender youth from participating in school sports.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holbomb vetoed similar legislation in his state, telling lawmakers he was unconvinced by arguments that there was a problem in school sports or a lack of fairness in women’s sports that warranted intervention the government require.

“After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim, even if I support the overall objective,” he wrote.

A 2021 report by LGBT+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project found that while LGBT+ youth ages 13-24 are attempting to kill, LGBT+ youth are four times more likely than their peers to seriously consider, plan or attempt suicide every 45 seconds within the US.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and members of the Salt Lake City City Council condemned the actions of the state legislature, which the governor and his attorneys have warned also expose the state to costly litigation and economic repercussions amounting to several will expose millions of dollars.

“We consider this action particularly tragic as it is the responsibility of all lawmakers to provide all people with equal protection and dignity under the law,” city officials said in a statement.

Ryan Smith, owner of the Utah Jazz – owned in part by Dwayne Wade, whose daughter is transgender – said the legislation was “hasty, flawed and will not last. I’m confident we can find a better way.”

The Utah ACLU said it was willing “to sue to protect the rights of transgender students in Utah.”

“Discrimination against transgender athletes not only prevents them from experiencing the sense of trust and inclusion that comes with participating in sport, but also reinforces the exclusion and trauma that far too many transgender Utahans already experience ‘ the organization said in a statement.

In response to the governor’s veto letter, Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams said that “doing nothing is a step backwards for women” and that “there is a need to find a solution to this complicated problem, now and in the future.” to maintain fair competition”.

As originally written, House Bill would have allowed 11 transgender girls to compete in girls’ sports if a commission had agreed they posed no threat to cisgender girls in competition.

But a last-minute replacement resulted in an outright ban on all transgender girls from gender-appropriate sports.

“It is important to note that a total ban was never discussed, never considered, never debated, and never received public input before the legislature passed the law on the 45th and final night of session,” Gov. Cox wrote.

Cathryn Oakley, legislative director and senior counsel of the Human Rights Campaign, said the state legislature “shows no shame.”

“The Utah Legislature should focus on the real issues affecting Utah residents and not unnecessarily target a handful of vulnerable children who don’t pose a threat and just want to play sports with their friends,” she said in a statement.

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