ALL NEWS

Bill that would bar transgender girls from ‘sports for female students’ advances to House

Feb 11, 2021, 2:43 PM | Updated: 2:52 pm

Transgender sports in Utah considered by legislature...

People attend a hearing in person and virtually for HB302 before the House Education Committee at the state Office Building in Salt Lake City on Feb. 11, 2021. The bill would bar transgender athletes at public schools to participate in girls sports. (Deseret News)

(Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would bar transgender girls from competing in female sports is making its way through the state Legislature, passing through the Utah House Education Committee Thursday. 

HB302, advancing with an 8-6 vote, would require schools to label athletic activities in one of three ways: “male” or “boys”; “female” or “girls”; or as “coed” or “mixed.” Participation would be based on “the biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.” 

The bill explicitly prohibits transgender girls from participating in female sports, but does not address transgender men in male sports. It’s unclear whether the bill would bar both activities. 

Athletes testify in favor of bill barring transgender girls from female sports

Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan and the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would promote fairness and equality in school sports. She argued it’s unfair for females because of certain physical and biological differences, therefore it would give transgender women an advantage. 

“The first time I was forced to go up against a transgender athlete, I remember standing on the starting line, right next to the largest stature person,” said Alison Pray, who runs cross county and track at Southern Utah University, during the committee hearing Thursday. “I instantly felt completely defeated. I thought, the only chance I have to beat this individual, is if they decide to let me. Otherwise I don’t have a chance.”

“The first time I raced with a biological man, it felt bizarre,” added Haley Tanne, another track athlete at SUU. In fact, she said it felt like she was running against “a giant.”

Opponents of the bill said it’s unfair to ban someone who identifies as female from participating in women’s sports. Others said it’s harmful to transgender students who may already feel out of place in a more conservative state. 

Drafting attorney question constitutionality 

Beyond moral questions, some drafting attorneys expressed concerns the legislation, if passed, would be deemed unconstitutional. They pointed to a similar case in Idaho — in which the state Legislature passed a bill barring transgender women from participating in sports in August 2020 — that was temporarily blocked by federal courts. 

That bill is currently on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Some legal experts maintain that even if HB302 passed, it wouldn’t be upheld in the Supreme Court. 

“Based on the Idaho law, and based on the litigation in Idaho, [it] has not yet got to fruition,” said David Spatafore, a political consultant for the Utah High School Activities Association. “We know there will be litigation if this bill passes. We’ll enforce it, but we know there will be litigations.”

The ACLU of Utah also expressed concerns about lawsuits against the state. 

If passed, the bill would provide for legal actions against schools that don’t comply. For example, if a student feels they’ve been deprived of an athletic opportunity or “suffers any direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation,” they can sue for damages. 

It would also prohibit certain investigations or complaints against schools that enforce the legislation. 

Related: Lawmakers promote bill prohibiting online impersonation

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

FILE - A skier turns through the trees at Powder Mountain. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)...

Mariah Maynes

Strong winds cause ski lift holds, Powder Mountain cancels day skiing March 2

Powder Mountain announced that day skiing will be closed tomorrow following strong winds. The announcement came as resorts across the state experienced impacted lift operations due to the gusts. 

8 hours ago

(Utah State Capitol.  Photo: Paul Nelson)...

Mariah Maynes

Gov. Cox not planning to veto any 2024 legislative session bills

As the 2024 Utah legislative session draws to a close, Gov. Cox said he is not planning to veto any bills. 

9 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a Republican campaign ...

WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Haley says she raised $12M in February, can’t point to long-term plan to beat Trump

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said Friday that she raised $12 million in February, a haul that will likely allow her to remain in the Republican primary against former President Donald Trump past next week's Super Tuesday — even though she can't point to an upcoming state where she expects to beat him.

9 hours ago

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Scot Peterson shown, a school arming school staff is aw...

Curt Gresseth

Lawmaker talks about arming school workers, despite studies saying guards don’t prevent gun violence

Arming school workers will lead to safer schools, says a Utah lawmaker whose bill awaits the governor's pen to become law.

12 hours ago

Chief of Police for Price City Police Department, Brandon Sicilie, holding PeeDee....

Britt Johnson

Abandoned puppy finds a home at the Price Police Department

PeeDee, a puppy found on the side of a roadway during a dispatch call, has found a new home with the Price City Police Department.

14 hours ago

great salt lake shown, a bill to preserve the lake has passed...

Adam Small

Utah Legislature passes massive bill aimed at helping Great Salt Lake

This bill subjects mineral extraction companies to the same rules as every other water user in Great Salt Lake Basin.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Bill that would bar transgender girls from ‘sports for female students’ advances to House