Utah’s Republican governor vetoes transgender sports ban


Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Tuesday vetoed a bill banning transgender children from playing school sports, noting in a letter explaining his veto that “rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

Driving the news: Cox is the second Republican governor this week, after Indiana’s Eric Holcomb, to veto legislation that would have banned trans youth from participating in school sports, making them outliers as 11 Republican governors have signed similar bills into law in recent years, per the New York Times.

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What he’s saying: “I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion,” Cox wrote in the letter to the leaders of the state House and Senate.

  • Cox described the ongoing national debate regarding transgender participation in school sports as “one of the most divisive of our time,” and he said the bill, HB11, has “several fundamental flaws and should be reconsidered.”

  • “I believe in fairness and protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” he added. But he said that despite ongoing negotiations, the bill was changed at the last minute in such a way that would “result in millions of dollars in legal fees for local school districts with no state protection.”

Cox said several statistics influenced his decision, namely that there were only four transgender kids playing sports at the high school level in Utah and only one who played on a girls’ team. He also cited the high rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts among trans youth.

  • “Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. 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 a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he said.

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

What’s next: Cox has called a special session in anticipation the legislature will override his veto to figure out next steps on the bill.

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