Utah Governor Spencer Cox cited suicide rates among transgender youth as one of his reasons for vetoing a Republican-backed sports ban bill.
House Bill 11 would have seen trans girls banned from participating in school sports teams that align with their gender identity, something he called a flawed measure with an array of legal and financial risks.
“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 wrote in a letter to Utah’s Senate president and House speaker. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”
The governor, who is also a Republican, referenced data showing that just four out of 75,000 kids playing high school sports were transgender.
It would take two-thirds of legislators to override Cox’s veto, which legislative leaders are planning a meeting to discuss doing 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
He urged those considering this move to “find a better way” and suggested amending the bill to provide more funding for school districts and sport organisations for young people.
“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,” Cox added.
“For that reason, as much as any other, I have taken this action in the hope that we can continue to work together and find a better way. If a veto override occurs, I hope we can work to find ways to show these four kids that we love them and they have a place in our state.”
BREAKING: Republican Gov. Cox just vetoed the anti-trans sports ban passed earlier this year by the Utah legislature.
He becomes the second governor in the last 24 hours to veto this type of discriminatory legislation.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 22, 2022
Cathryn Oakley, State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, welcomed Cox’s veto of HB 11.
“Transgender kids across Utah, whether they want to play school sports or not, will be better off because of Gov. Cox’s decision today, and the Human Rights Campaign appreciates his veto,” Oakley stated.
“We urge lawmakers to uphold the Governor’s veto because all children in Utah deserve better than being treated as political pawns – what they deserve is to be able to have fun with their friends, exercise, and learn how to be part of a team.”
The veto came just one day after Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s Republican governor, blocked a similar bill.
He is likely going to face override attempts similar to that of Cox.
Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have all had anti-trans bills relating to sport signed into law by their governors.