Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would ban transgender girls from playing on sports teams that corresponded with their gender, arguing the bill would have bankrupted the state’s high school athletic association and affected only a small number of adolescents.
Cox earlier this month said he would veto the amended proposal that passed the state legislature, which bars “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students.”
In the legislation, sex is defined as “biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”
Cox said he understood the veto would be overridden, and that he was already anticipating calling a special session to address the legislation.
But in a letter to the state’s top legislators on Tuesday, Cox said lawmakers failed “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,” he added, saying the ban would be a “explicit invitation for a lawsuit” that would provide no financial protection to the UHSAA.
Cox also criticized lawmakers for hastily changing the legislation, saying that the text of the bill was completely different than the outcome he anticipated, which was a commission that would have determined on a case-by-case basis which adolescents would have been allowed to participate in sports.
“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.
“It is important to note that a complete ban was never discussed, never contemplated, never debated and never received any public input prior to the Legislature passing the bill on the 45th and final night of the session,” he added later.
He also noted there are only four transgender adolescents who play sports in Utah, and only one participates in girls’ sports, and added that the consequences of passing the legislation could be serious for students.
“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” Cox wrote.
“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.”
The move comes as several other Republican governors — Govs. Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemUtah GOP governor vetoes transgender sports ban Noem signs bill that rejects ‘divisive’ race trainings at South Dakota universities National Park Service denies Noem’s request for July 4th fireworks at Mount Rushmore MORE of South Dakota — have passed similar legislation.