Lt. Gov. Henderson says school board member Cline’s actions ‘a new low,’ calls for resignation

Feb 8, 2024, 12:48 PM | Updated: 7:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson called on embattled state school board member Natalie Cline to resign.

In an interview with KSL TV Thursday afternoon, Henderson said Cline’s social media post about a local female student-athlete that insinuated she was a boy was “a new low.”

“I think that if she had any self-respect or dignity or cared at all about these kids, she would recognize that she’s really crossed a line,” Henderson said, “and she would take that responsibility on her shoulders and resign.”

Republican lawmakers condemn Cline

Meanwhile, Utah legislative leaders blasted Cline for her post and said they were considering impeachment proceedings against the Utah State Board of Education member.

“What she did was reprehensible,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, “and we condemn it.”

Adams said leaders were “looking” at the possibility of impeachment, which can be initiated by the Utah Legislature.

“We’d want to make sure that the elected officials have the opportunity to make the decisions and give them some time to try to walk through this,” said Adams.

Adams did not say outright that Cline should resign, but Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, did.

“I would prefer that she step down,” Vickers said while noting that it’s her choice.

Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, who has sponsored multiple LGBTQ-related bills, also called for Cline’s resignation Thursday.

“A child should never be targeted by adults, let alone an elected official,” Birkeland said.

House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, released a statement with the Utah House Majority Caucus, saying the caucus is looking into what they can do to reprimand Cline.

“We are considering all available options within our constitutional authority moving forward,” the majority caucus statement said.

The majority caucus says Cline’s social media posts were “thoughtless and baseless claims” and “to harass a child is unacceptable and inexcusable.”

“We care about this young victim’s safety and wellbeing and join our community and state in surrounding her and her family with love and support. She deserves nothing less,” the caucus said.

Cline faced immediate and swift pushback after the now-deleted post, including sharp condemnation from Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who said Cline had “embarrassed the state of Utah and State Board of Education.”

Democrats push for impeachment

House Minority Leader Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, told KSL TV that House Democrats “have looked at impeachment possibilities,” and she planned to meet soon with the House speaker to discuss possible next steps.

“Our goal is to file an impeachment,” Romero said. “My understanding is there’s great concern in both the House and the Senate on both (the) Republican and Democrat side.”

Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said that Cline should step down before it gets to that point.

“That would be very helpful if she resigns immediately,” Escamilla said.

In a statement, Senate Democrats said that Cline’s actions “characterized by the intentional mockery and defamation of a minor student, represent a flagrant violation of the ethical standards, policies, and trust placed in her as a public official. We call for her immediate resignation.”

Senate Democrats said they are working with legal counsel and looking to the impeachment of Cline.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have also called for Cline’s immediate resignation and criticized Republican-led bills dealing with the transgender community, saying such legislation “only worsens this harmful behavior.” Gov. Cox recently signed into law HB257, which restricts transgender people from accessing bathrooms that differ from their biological sex in government buildings, with some exceptions.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill regulating transgender surgeries and medical treatment for minors. And in 2022, lawmakers overrode Cox’s veto of a bill banning transgender girls from competing in school sports.

“If the Utah Legislature continues to pass laws singling out our trans community members, these incidents may well continue,” Democrats said.

Senate President Adams took issue with that criticism, saying Utah has dealt with LGBTQ issues “probably better than any other state.”

“Those bills are not meant to try to demean or hurt,” Adams said. “They’re actually meant to try to give definition and help.”

In an exclusive interview with KSL TV Wednesday evening, the parents of the student-athlete called Cline’s post “cyberbullying at its finest” and said the post “broke our hearts.”

For her part, Cline issued a statement apologizing to the girl and her family, but she maintained it is “normal to pause and wonder if people are what they say they are because of the push to normalize transgenderism.”

Cline’s social media post was the latest in a string of comments over several years that have led to repeated criticism and even a 2021 reprimand from the USBE.

Contributing: Michael Houck, KSL TV

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Lt. Gov. Henderson says school board member Cline’s actions ‘a new low,’ calls for resignation