Utah legislature overrides Republican governor’s veto of transgender sports ban

By a vote of 56-18 – and amid a chorus of protest from Democrats – the GOP-led Utah legislature on Friday overrode Republican Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill preventing transgender girls from competing in sports designated for females, as the Deseret News reports.

Following that pivotal development, the Utah Senate voted by a margin of 21-8 to put the final stamp of approval on the move, meeting the necessary supermajority threshold by just a single vote.

Governor’s veto sparks firestorm

The controversy began earlier this month when Cox sided with liberals in the state and announced that he would veto legislation designed to restrict athletic contests to participants of the same gender, as ABC News reported at the time.

According to The Hill, the measure in question prohibited “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students,” and specified that the term “sex” meant the “biological physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”

Soon after the measure was passed by the Utah legislature, Cox took to social media to reassure transgender athletes that “It’s going to be OK,” ultimately fulfilling his promise to veto the measure, which he did early last week.

Legislature fires back

In campaigning for her colleagues to support an override of the governor’s veto, bill sponsors Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland noted that the intent of the measure is “purely” concerned with “preserving women’s sports” and nothing else.

“When we don’t act and we just go with the status quo, we just do more harm to both transgender youth and women athletes,” Birkeland argued.

As the Deseret News further noted, the legislature on Friday held a special session at the governor’s request to tackle concerns that the revived bill would put individual school districts as well as the Utah High School Activities Association at risk of expensive litigation.

Ultimately, the House and Senate approved a measure providing indemnification for the aforementioned groups for liabilities incurred as a result of litigation stemming from the transgender sports ban.

The fate of bill remains unsettled

Almost immediately after the override of Cox’s veto was achieved, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah made it clear that the matter was far from concluded, issuing a statement saying, “We are deeply disappointed and saddened at today’s votes by the Utah Legislature to discriminate against transgender youth to exclude them from participating fully on sports teams.”

“Litigation to stop HB11 from taking effect is now both necessary and inevitable to ensure Constitutional promises of equal protection for all Utahns,” the statement added.

Republican Senate President Stuart Adams indicated that litigation was always anticipated, regardless of the success of an override attempt, and that even if the ban is ultimately thrown out by a court, the bill is designed to trigger the activation of a commission charged with determining participation eligibility for transgender athletes on a more individualized basis, hopefully ensuring a level playing field for all who wish to compete.

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