Bill Banning Transgender Girls From Female Athletics Passes First Hurdle In Utah Legislature

Feb 12, 2021

Credit KPCW News

A Summit County Representative’s bill banning transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams in schools is making its way through the legislature.

 


The bill passed it’s first hurdle Thursday in a House Education Committee meeting with a vote of 8-6.

Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland is sponsoring the bill. During the committee meeting, she said the purpose of her bill is to preserve a women’s space in sports earned through the civil rights movement. 

“Today, we face the future where those hard fought gains for equality are cast aside our future where women are left as spectators in their own sports,” Birkeland said. “Across America, there are stories of individuals who identified as male at birth competing against our female athletes. These individuals who identified as male at birth are breaking records that no female will be able to reach.”

Michael Curtis is an attorney with the Legislative Research and General Counsel. Speaking during the meeting, he said he wanted to provide constitutional analysis on the bill without bias. 

He said he couldn’t give a definite prediction, but it’s possible if not probable that a court would find the bill unconstitutional. 

“Plaintiffs could argue that the bill treats trans transgender students differently than other similarly situated students,” Curtis said. “Even transgender male students differently from transgender female students without sufficiently significant basis for the disparate treatment based on sex, and that's the question is whether the whether there is a significant sufficiently significant basis for that treatment.” 

There were a number of people who spoke out in favor of the bill, including some female athletes. However, there were far more people who spoke out against it during the public comment. 

Jennifer Plumb is a pediatrician, who spoke out during the meeting. She said youth suicides in Utah are driven by adolescents feeling like they don’t belong.

“We hear that there is not one transgender athlete playing right now in our state schools,” Plumb said. “I'll tell you what we have had between 2017 and 2019. We had 414. Young utahns killed themselves. We need to think about what we're doing here when we put bills in place that already take a vulnerable population and say they don't matter.”

A similar bill was passed in the Idaho legislature last year, but was overturned by a federal ruling. 

Birkeland’s bill now heads to the House Floor for discussion.