Utah Republicans override governor from their own party to pass anti-trans sports bill
Salt Lake City, Utah - Republican lawmakers in Utah on Friday voted to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill banning transgender student athletes from competing in sports aligned with their gender identity.
House Bill 11 passed both chambers of the Utah legislature in the last hours of the 2022 legislative session, on March 4, after a last-minute amendment that left LGBTQ rights activists "blindsided" and "devastated."
But Cox, a Republican, later vetoed the legislation, citing high suicide rates among transgender youth.
During a special session Friday afternoon, however, Republican lawmakers met the two-thirds threshold to override the governor’s veto and revive the bill.
The measure passed by a 21-8 margin in the Senate and 56-18 in the House, with five Republicans in the Senate and 10 in the House changing their previous votes.
Their actions are "nothing but an act of bullying," the National Center for Transgender Equality said in a statement. Lawmakers are "seeking to hurt trans children who are just trying to be themselves."
"Governor Cox was correct to veto this intrusive and overreaching bill," the group noted.
Choosing "exclusion and cruelty"
Earlier this week, in an emotional letter to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Cox wrote that he was vetoing the legislation because he wanted kids "to live."
Citing a 2020 study, Cox said that 86% of transgender youth have reported suicidality, and 56% of them have reported a suicide attempt.
He also noted that of the 75,000 kids who participate in sports in Utah high schools, four of them are openly transgender, and only one plays on a girls team.
"Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what this is all about," he wrote. "Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are part of something."
GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, an organization that fights for full equality and justice for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV, tweeted that "Utah legislators chose exclusion and cruelty" by overriding the ban.
Athlete Ally, a group that works to "dismantle the systems of oppression in sport that isolate, exclude and endanger LGBTQI+ people," vowed to keep fighting for the rights of transgender youth, in a tweet addressed to "Utah trans youth."
"You are loved, and we will never stop fighting for your right to be exactly who you are," the group wrote.
Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/nito500 & IMAGO / agefotostock