BY JANICA STOCKING
Because of transwoman Lia Thomas’s recent win in swimming at a collegiate level, the tensions surrounding the issue of whether or not transgender people should compete in women’s sports have been heightened. On March 22, 2022, HB11, a bill that would ban transgender students from participating in school sports was vetoed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox. The bill had been passed at the very end of the 2022 Utah legislative session. Shortly after the bill was vetoed, Utah Republicans announced that the legislature would convene in a veto override session on Friday. This session will convene following a special session called by Governor Cox on the issue.
Many believe that this bill has been at the center of a tough election season. According to FOX 13 News, Utah legislators believe that they have flipped enough votes to override the governor’s veto. Some current Utah legislators are reportedly concerned about losing primary elections in the summer if they refuse to support House Bill 11. With stiff competition in a red state and many of their constituents and competitors agreeing with a lot of aspects of the bill, some may have reluctantly agreed to back the bill in an attempt to override the veto.
Governor Cox was also concerned because there are currently only four transgender students participating in high school sports. While the focus has been on those students, top Utah legislators including House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, claimed that the bill was not about those four athletes and was to protect female spaces for biological females in women’s sports. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, said that the bill’s passing would allow legislators “[to] actually start working together and finding opportunities for these transgender youth that [don’t] take away opportunities for girls.” Birkeland also said that “finding places for transgender youth to excel and thrive while still providing and preserving opportunities for girls to excel and thrive” should be a common goal for everyone.
This veto comes shortly after another Republican governor, Indiana’s Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoed a similar bill. Governor Holcomb vetoed that bill due to a lack of consistent state policy on the matter. Despite these vetoes, 11 other states have passed similar laws banning transgender students from participating in women’s sports. These states include Idaho, Montana, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Iowa, and South Dakota.