In a major blow to LGBTQ+ rights, Utah has passed its anti-trans sports ban despite a previous veto from Governor Spencer Cox.
On 4 March, state lawmakers introduced the transphobic House Bill 11 during a legislative session.
Under the proposed legislation, transgender girls would be banned from competing in school sports that align with their gender identity.
Officials debated the legislation for an hour before it was ultimately passed by the Senate with a 16-13 vote. It then headed to House lawmakers, who immediately passed the proposal with a vote of 46-29.
Shortly after the law passed, Cox announced that he would veto the decision once the document landed on his desk.
On 22 March, the Republican governor released his veto letter that referenced data showing that just four out of 75,000 kids playing high school sports were transgender.
“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about,” he wrote in a letter to Utah’s Senate president and House speaker.
“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.
“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”
However, a few days later, Cox’s veto was overturned by conservative lawmakers.
According to a report from CNN, the decision was made after a 56-18 vote in Utah’s House and 21-8 vote in the state’s Senate on 25 March.
I know most won’t read past a headline but please read my veto letter—especially if you disagree with me. The veto will be overridden on Friday and then we will have a special session to fix a few things. Trans sports is a terribly difficult issue. Please be kind to everyone. 1/ pic.twitter.com/5991MF2xqa
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) March 22, 2022
Since the results were made public, LGBTQ+ activists and organisations have condemned lawmakers for passing the bill.
In a statement, ACLU Utah expressed their sadness over the decision before announcing litigation plans.
“We are deeply disappointed and saddened at today’s votes by the Utah Legislature to discriminate against transgender youth and exclude them from participating fully on sports teams,” they wrote.
“Litigation to stop HB 11 from taking effect is now both necessary and inevitable to ensure Constitutional promises of equal protection to all Utahns.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) echoed similar sentiments and slammed political officials for their “continued attack on transgender children.”
“Further, the state is opening itself up to legal challenges, as have followed similar laws in other states,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel.
“The Utah legislature should focus on the real issues impacting Utahns, not needlessly attack a handful of vulnerable children who pose no threat and just want to play sports with their friends.”
The harmful law has even seen pushback from the state’s NBA team, the Utah Jazz.
“We are committed to our values of inclusivity, mutual respect and fair play. Beyond basketball, we hope for an equitable solution that shows love and compassion for our youth,” the team said.
With the recent override, the horrific law is set to go into effect on 1 July.
Statement from @acluutah on today’s votes by the #utleg to override @SpencerJCox‘s veto of #HB11.
PDF: https://t.co/WYfWUcuVDs @EqualityUtah @utahpridecenter @TEAofUtah @BenWinslow @RobertGehrke @lwhitehurst @KUER @SchottHappens @KatieMcKellar1 #utpol pic.twitter.com/80aCVWpYrI
— ACLU of Utah (@acluutah) March 25, 2022