Governor Spencer Cox says he will veto a transgender sports ban passed by the state legislature on Friday. Without Cox's signature, the law protecting female athletes from having to compete against males identifying as females will likely fail.
The governor specifically addressed trans athletes whom he feels have been unfairly thrust into the middle of a contentious political debate.
“I just want them to know that it's gonna be okay. We're gonna work through this,” Cox said.
The governor's planned veto comes after months of tense, behind-the-scenes negotiations between lawmakers and activists as they attempted to craft legislation that would give schools a framework for dealing with athletes who identify as members of the opposite sex.
Cox was aware of and involved with the negotiations throughout the process. When the talks between social conservatives and transgender activists began, the aim was to create a state commission or panel that would look at issues of transgender sports involvement on a case-by-case basis, according to the Associated Press. However, when the legislature passed a law on Friday that included an amendment banning males identifying as females from girls' sports, the governor announced he would veto the measure.
Lawmakers representing social conservatives defended the amendment by saying the rule would ensure fairness protect the safety of female athletes.
“Boys can run faster, they can jump higher, and they can throw farther than girls in the same age bracket,” said Republican State Sen. Curt Bramble.
“To have individuals that are born male compete against naturally born females, it's an unfair playing field,” he added.
The sheer domination in this race (and significant progress in rankings) highlights the physical advantages biological men have when competing directly against biological women. Everyone has a place in sport, but this level of unfairness to be allowed is mind-boggling 🤯 https://t.co/KQhrOzRAHm pic.twitter.com/ytlTpaXdtL
— Danielle (Nolli) Waterman (@nolli15) February 19, 2022
Lawmakers in Utah had gravitated towards the idea of a commission to handle cases of transgender participation in sports, at least in part, due to a belief that the courts would ultimately block Utah from passing a trans sports ban as they had done in Idaho. The bill passed on Friday that outright bans trans participation did contain a provision that allowed the commission to be set up if the courts blocked the state from implementing a trans sports ban.
As the Associated Press reports:
Equality Utah, an LGBTQ rights group opposed to state intervention in youth sports, said they were blindsided by the passage of the legislation.
‘We have failed our state's transgender children, who just want to be treated with kindness and respect,' the group said in a statement.
Though “blindsided” by the passage of legislation banning trans athletes from girls' sports, trans activists weren't pleased with the law's original intent of setting up a commission either due to fears that transgender athletes would feel unfairly targeted.
Eleven other states have recently passed laws banning males identifying as females from girls' sports.