Utah Governor Vetoes Transgender Athlete Bill: ‘I Try to Err on Side of Compassion’

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during an interview at the Utah State Capitol Friday, March 4
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) vetoed a bill on Tuesday which would prevent boys who identify as girls from participating on girl’s sports teams.

Cox explained his reasoning for vetoing the bill in a lengthy letter to the Utah State Legislature, claiming it has “several fundamental flaws” and that “when in doubt,” he tries to “err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.” The governor also posted an abbreviated version of the letter to Twitter.

Cox said the bill was “substantially changed” in the final hours of the legislative session before it was passed — Republicans removed a provision that Cox claimed was a “compromise” between the LGBT community and protecting girls’ sports. Rather than outright ban transgender girls from girls’ sports, the provision (with Cox’s approval) would have allowed the creation of a commission of “experts” who would decide transgender cases on an individual basis.

Cox’s plan would legally establish the transgender ideology in Utah’s K-12 sports system. That establishment would open the legal door for the ideology throughout the state’s K-12 schools — even as ordinary Americans — and many GOP politicians — are fighting to evict the unpopular and destructive ideology from their kids’ schools. In Florida, for example, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recently signed a law that largely bars the ideology in classes for kids younger than Grade 4.

“The concept was fairly simple. For the very small number of transgender kids who are looking to find a sense of connection and community–without posing any threat to women’s sports–the commission would allow participation,” Cox wrote. “However, the committee would prohibit participation in the rare circumstance of an outlier who could pose a safety threat or dominate a sport in a way that would eliminate competitive opportunities for biological females.” 

According to the governor, the last drafted version of the bill would have implemented an all-out ban on boys who think they are girls from girls’ sports, and a commission would only have been created if a court prohibited the ban.

Cox also said “one of the worst results” of the changes to the bill “was the inability of legislators to understand the financial impacts that will be forced upon the Utah High School Athletic Association (UHSAA) and local Utah school districts that will inevitably get sued under this bill.”

“The UHSAA is a private organization and runs the real risk of insolvency and bankruptcy, putting our entire state athletics program in danger. Having just completed a lengthy and very expensive lawsuit, the organization does not have significant reserves on hand,” the governor wrote. “Furthermore, the UHSAA has been clear that if the state ever attempted a ban, the state would also need to provide indemnification to hold the organization harmless in the forthcoming lawsuit.”

Most notably, Cox seemed to express more sympathy for boys who identify as girls rather than actual girls, saying he is “learning so much” from the transgender community and that they are “great kids who face enormous struggles.” He also cited “trans youth suicide rates,” adding that those numbers “most impacted” his decision to veto the bill. He then painted transgender children as  “kids who are just trying to find some friends.”

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. 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,” he said

“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,” he continued.

Cox did mention transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, “who has recently dominated women’s swimming.” He called Thomas an “egregious example” but said the bill would not address that kind of situation because HB11 applies only to high school and middle school sports. He also claimed the “expert” commission would prevent a Lia Thomas-like situation from happening in the state.

University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas competes in the 200 freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships Friday, March 18, 2022, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Thomas finished tied for fifth place. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas competes in the 200 freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships Friday, March 18, 2022, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“I believe this is terrible for women’s sports. There are natural advantages that come from our birth sex, which is the very reason that we have men’s and women’s sports in the first place. Setting records and taking scholarships away from biological gendered women should give everyone pause,” he said. “It’s bad for women and it is bad for the LGBTQ community, as it turns allies and reasonable people into opponents. I don’t believe that this type of participation is compelled by the Constitution, but that decision will be left to the courts in the months and years to come.”

Despite Cox’s disapproval, Republican legislators said they plan to override the veto on Friday. Cox, who is up for reelection in 2024, is the second Republican governor within a few days to veto a bill aimed at keeping transgender girls out of girls’ sports. More than ten other states have passed similar laws, especially in recent years, as more and more men who identify as women crush women’s records in various athletics.

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.