Home Christian News Transgender Sports Ban Veto Likely To Be Overridden in Utah

Transgender Sports Ban Veto Likely To Be Overridden in Utah

FILE - Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during an interview at the Utah State Capitol, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Salt Lake City. Cox vetoed a ban on transgender students playing girls’ sports on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, becoming the second Republican governor to overrule state lawmakers who have taken on youth sports in a broader culture war over how Americans view gender and sexuality. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer ,File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s Republican lawmakers were preparing for a Friday push to override Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of legislation banning transgender youth athletes from playing on girls teams, a move that comes amid a brewing nationwide culture war over transgender issues.

Cox was the second GOP governor this week to overrule state lawmakers on a sports-participation ban, and his veto letter drew national attention with a poignant argument that such laws target vulnerable kids who already have high rates of suicide attempts. But 11 states have enacted similar bans, and they are a key topic for the party’s vocal conservative base.

In Utah, there are also fears that the law’s passage could scuttle the NBA All-Star game set for February 2023 in Salt Lake City. The owner of the Utah Jazz, tech entrepreneur Ryan Smith, tweeted: “The bill rushed, flawed and won’t hold up over time. I’m hopeful we can find a better way.”

The team is also partially owned by NBA all-star Dwyane Wade, who has a transgender daughter. NBA spokesman Mike Bass has said the league is “working closely” with the Jazz on the matter.

Leaders in the deeply conservative Legislature, though, say they need to pass the law to protect women’s sports. As cultural shifts raise LGBTQ visibility, the lawmakers argue that transgender athletes can have a physical advantage and could eventually dominate the field and change the nature of women’s sports.

Utah has only one transgender girl playing in K-12 sports who would be affected by the ban. There have been no allegations of any of the four transgender youth athletes in Utah having a competitive advantage.

A majority of the residents — and lawmakers — are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in what has historically been among the nation’s most conservative states. But an influx of new residents and technology companies coupled with the growing influence of the tourism industry often sets the stage for heated debate over social issues.

Friday’s deliberations come after more than a year of debate and negotiation between social conservatives and LGBTQ advocates over how to regulate transgender participation in school sports. A year ago, lawmakers scuttled a proposed ban amid concerns about lawsuits and pushback from Cox, who indicated he would veto the legislation if it landed on his desk.

The issue resurfaced when lawmakers reconvened earlier this year. Its primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland, worked with Cox and civil rights activists at Equality Utah before introducing legislation that would require transgender student-athletes to go before a government-appointed commission, which would evaluate whether their participation would distort level playing fields.