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Cox vetoes bill on transgender athlete ban; Legislature plans veto override session

Mar 22, 2022, 2:13 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2022, 6:07 am
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broa...
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed a bill that would ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports, and lawmakers will override the veto of HB11 on Friday.

The governor also called for a special session of the Utah Legislature to “consider financial and legal issues regarding House Bill 11” on Friday.

Cox addressed his reasons for vetoing the bill, stating that it had “several fundamental flaws” and was “substantially changed in the final hours of the legislative session.”

“There was no public input and this lack of time and input has serious legal and financial implications as well,” Cox said. “I believe in process and this was a poor process. HB11 also provides no financial protection and explicitly invites a lawsuit meaning this bill will likely bankrupt the Utah High School Athletic Association and result in millions of dollars in legal fees for local school districts.”

The bill did not pass the Utah Legislature with a majority large enough to prevent a veto.

However, the Legislature announced they would call a veto override session over HB11 after two-thirds of the members of each chamber were in favor of reconvening for a veto override session.

“We must work to preserve the integrity of women’s sports and ensure it remains fair and safe for all,” Senate President J. Stuart Adams said. “While Gov. Cox and I disagree on this bill, I respect the legislative process. We have been listening to our constituents, talking with experts, and we feel it’s important to make decisions now that protect athletes and ensure women are not edged out of their sport. Creating a safe and fair environment for athletes takes work. We care deeply for all students, but we can not ignore the scientific facts that biological boys are built differently than girls. Doing nothing is taking a step backward for women. Finding a solution to this complicated issue is necessary to maintain fair competition now and in the future.”

House Speaker Brad Wilson also spoke against the bill.

“Governor Cox made his intention to veto the bill clear from the day it was passed so his action today was expected,” he said. “Members of the Legislature, including the sponsor, have worked tirelessly for more than a year to find the best way to approach a complex issue and I anticipate that we will have sufficient votes to override the veto. Ultimately, the Legislature recognizes the value of girls athletics and our members want to ensure girls have the level playing field to compete that was created by Title IX.”

Cox shared his efforts to make Utah the first state to have legislators and LGBTQ advocates work on a compromise to protect women’s sports but still allow some participation for transgendered youth.

“Unfortunately, that compromise fell apart in the 11th hour of the session,” Cox said. “I am not an expert on transgenderism. 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.”

In a longer letter addressing the veto, Cox shared the following numbers.

“Here are the numbers that have most impacted my decision: 75,000, 4, 1, 86 and 56.

  • 75,000 high school kids participating in high school sports in Utah.
  • 4 transgender kids playing high school sports in Utah.
  • 1 transgender student playing girls sports.
  • 86% of trans youth reporting suicidality.
  • 56% of trans youth having attempted suicide

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about.”

Gov. Cox transgender sports veto letter by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

Cox called a Special Legislative Session to “consider financial and legal issues regarding House Bill 11, Student Eligibility in Interscholastic Activities.” The session is set for 2 p.m. on Friday at the Utah Capitol.

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Cox vetoes bill on transgender athlete ban; Legislature plans veto override session