As Bill Banning Transgender Girls From Women's Sports Passes House, Gov. Spencer Cox Raises Concerns

Feb 18, 2021

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox at a COVID-19 briefing Feb. 11. On Thursday he raised concerns about Rep. Kera Birkeland's bill banning transgender girls from women's sports teams in schools. 

A bill that would ban transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams in schools passed the House floor Wednesday. On Thursday, Utah’s Governor weighed in on the bill.

 

 

Summit County Rep. Kera Birkeland is sponsoring H.B. 302. During discussion on the floor, Birkeland said her bill is about creating fairness for cisgender women, meaning women who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.  

"Women's Sports matter in Utah," Birkeland said. "It used to be when I was playing sports that we played sports because it was fun. It was good fitness and health. These days. women's sports are about competition. They're about scholarships. They're about opportunities to excel and exceed."

A similar bill made it through the Idaho legislature last year, but was later blocked by a court. Idaho is now facing lawsuits over the bill. During discussion on Wednesday, representatives brought up concerns over possible litigation in Utah. 

In 2016, North Carolina’s governor signed a “bathroom bill,” which forced transgender people to use the bathroom that correlates with the sex they were assigned at birth. Utah Democratic Rep. Andrew Stoddard said the NCAA relocated events away from North Carolina shortly after. He said Utah is going down a similar path. 

"The NCAA will withhold events from states that pass anti transgender legislation, which is what this is," Stoddard said. "The 2023 NBA All Star game, that will also be gone. Our own Sports Commission has estimated that will bring in $45-50 million in economic impact. Any chance of hosting the 2030 or 2030 for winter olympics also would be gone with passage of this bill."

Utah Governor Spencer Cox weighed in on the bill during his monthly news conference Thursday. He said there’s truth in both sides of the argument. 

"So, look, there are biological advantages with your birth gender," Cox said. "Those are biological facts, and nobody disputes that. It is also a fact that women's sports has had a disadvantage for many, many years. But it also... and this is where I think we have to be just so so very careful is that if you have not spent time with transgender youth, then I would encourage you to pause on this issue."

He said as it stands right now...he doesn’t feel comfortable signing the bill. But he is willing to work with Birkeland to make changes. 

"I'm not willing to give up on figuring out this one. I think there's still much that we can do to protect women's sports and also to to send a message to To trans kids, that, that they there's a place for them, and that they belong, and that's really important to me, that they know. Look, I just..." he said, choking up. "These kids are they're just trying to stay alive. You know, there's a reason none of them are playing sports. And so it's...I just think there's a better way."

Birkeland’s bill passed the House 50-23 Wednesday. It now heads to the Senate.