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Utah's GOP Governor Says He Will Veto Transgender Sports Bill

Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, Pool, File

Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox vowed to veto an amended proposal passed Friday that would prohibit biological male student-athletes from competing on sports teams designed for females.


"We care deeply about Utah's female athletes and our LGBTQ+ community," Cox said in a Facebook post early Saturday morning. "To those hurting tonight: It's going to be OK. We're going to help you get through this. Please reach out if you need help."

The legislation, which passed through the state House and Senate on Friday, would have barred biological males from competing against another school on a team "designated for female students."

It also states that a "governing entity or licensing or accrediting organization" may not "entertain a complaint, open an investigation, or take any other adverse action" against a school or local educational agency for "maintaining separate school athletic activities for students of the female sex."

Proponents of the bill argued that it ensured fairness in girls' sports because boys have a physical advantage over their female counterparts.

"Boys can run faster, they can jump higher and they can throw farther than girls in the same age bracket," Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble said, according to The Associated Press.

He added, "To have individuals that are born male compete against naturally born females, it’s an unfair playing field."


Critics of the legislation, however, argue that it unfairly targets transgender students, with Human Rights Campaign state legislative director and senior counsel Cathryn Oakley offering Cox high praise in a statement.

"As the first governor this year pledging to veto anti-trans legislation sent to his desk for signature, Gov. Cox deserves praise for standing up to those who continue to target and attack transgender youth," Oakley wrote. "Transgender kids are kids, and they do not deserve to be the targets of dehumanizing attacks that invalidate their identity."

Eleven states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia – have enacted similar legislation in the past two years.

This is just Cox's latest move to meet the ire of social conservatives. In February, Cox pledged to veto a school choice bill. Notably, the governor accepted $75,000 in campaign funds from the nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association, for his 2020 campaign.

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