Utah Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto and Pass Bill to Protect Women’s Sports

The Republican-supermajority Utah legislature has voted to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill that would ban biological males from competing against women and girls in school sports.

The House voted 56-18 and the Senate voted 21-8 to override the veto.

Democrats in the House and Senate were each joined by two Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill.

“The bill, HB11, originally intended to create a commission charged with evaluating whether a transgender athlete could participate in a school sport — a compromise that avoided an outright ban. But during final hours of the legislative session earlier this month, the Legislature passed a last-minute amendment to the bill that banned transgender girls from participating in female school sports,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The bill’s sponsor state Rep. Kera Birkeland, defended the bill amongst heated debate by pointing out that transgender stuents could still participate in co-ed sports.

“I often get asked the question of why so rushed. Why this process? Well, it’s simple. For almost two years, we tried to come up with other options,” Birkeland said during a rally ahead of the vote. “We could not get a compromise. So anyone who tells you there was a compromise. Why did you switch from the compromise? There was never a compromise. … You cannot compromise women’s liberties.”

Cox had said that he was vetoing the bill because wanted to protect “the integrity of women’s sports” while allowing transgender students to participate. He claimed that there are only four transgender students participating in girls’ sports in the state.

In his statement about the veto, the governor cited the suicide rates among people who are transgendered and wrote “I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”4

Republican lawmakers who supported the override held a rally on the Capitol steps prior to the vote and were met with protests.

“The bill includes a clause that if a lawsuit over the ban is taken to a Utah court and is found to be unconstitutional, the commission will take effect. Senate President Stuart Adams said litigation over the bill is expected,” the Tribune report added. “The Legislature also proposed and passed a bill that would indemnify high schools over legal costs if they’re sued over the legislation, addressing concerns that the ban would result in a costly legal battle at the expense of the Utah High School Activities Association, which represents nearly 160 high schools.”

The report explained, “that bill, HB3001, would appropriate a one-time $500,000 from the state’s General Fund for schools or local education agencies to cover legal costs.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has already promised to sue.

“We are deeply disappointed and saddened at today’s votes by the Utah Legislature to discriminate against transgender youth to exclude them from participating fully on sports teams,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Litigation to stop H.B. 11 from taking effect is now both necessary and inevitable to ensure Constitutional promises of equal protection to all Utahns.”

The bill is now set to become law on July 1.


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