GOP Utah gov says trans kids should play sports; legislature says unfair to girls

Wed. February 24, 2021 6:59 AM by Gerald Farinas

Salt Lake City - Gov. Spencer Cox (R-Utah) said that transgender students must be able to participate in the sports they want to play. He disagrees with a legislative plan that would ban all transgender children from playing in public middle, high school, and college athletics.

House Bill 302 was created by fellow Republican legislators, led by sponsor state Rep. Kera Birkeland of Morgan, Utah, as a reaction to transgender girls playing on girls' teams.

Birkeland argues that persons born biologically male are disadvantaging biological girls when in athletic competition.

She explicitly defines sex in the bill as “the biological, physical condition of being male or female determined by an individual's genetics and anatomy at birth.”

Cox, becoming emotional in comments to the Salt Lake City CBS affiliate said, “Trans kids are just trying to stay alive.”

Following Cox's comments on Friday, Utah Capitol watchers took to Twitter about a possible alternative to House Bill 302.

Troy Williams, Executive Director of Equality Utah said, “I haven't seen the language yet because the sponsors are not talking to the LGBT community and specifically not consulting with transgender leaders.”

One follower responded, “Why would they seek out conversations with trans folks for input on a bill that's designed to discriminate against them?”

Cox signaled his support for LGBT rights when he ran for governor last year.

“I have had the opportunity to meet with members of our transgender community many times,” he told people at an Equality Utah forum last May. “They are an important part of our state, and they deserve to be at the table.”

The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) is remaining neutral on the issue but said it will obey the law if it is passed.

The organization, which runs student athletics in the state, has voiced concern that the law will most likely be challenged in court as discriminatory and a civil rights violation, and UHSAA does not want to be in a position to defend the law in court.

Dave Spatafore of UHSAA said the organization “is at the tip of the spear of H.B. 302. We are the ones who will be litigated first if this bill becomes law.”

If and until the law is passed, transgender athletes can compete following guidelines.

Female to male transgender students with gender-affirming treatments can participate in boys' sports.

Male to female transgender students without gender-affirming treatments must participate in boys' sports.

Male to female transgender students with gender-affirming interventions can participate in girls' sports.

Several other states are moving with legislation to deny transgender children the right to use public accommodations and play in sports that affirm their respective gender identity.