POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Lawmaker discusses her bill to bar transgender athletes from girls’ sports

Feb 23, 2021, 5:12 PM | Updated: 6:12 pm

Utah gender identify guidelines for schools...

The Utah State Board of Education said schools will determine their own policies on gender identity. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Editorial note: This story is part of a two-part conversation around a bill aimed at banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports in Utah. Read more and listen to the other side of the conversation here

SALT LAKE CITY —  A Republican lawmaker says changes may be in the works to her bill that would bar transgender athletes from competing against girls in school sports.

Rep. Kera Birkeland of Morgan said her bill is about preserving female sports in schools and safeguarding biological female players in contact games in a conversation with KSL NewsRadio’s Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry.

“You could have a transgender-female athlete step in and compete against the girls, compete against them for scholarships, for titles, for all kinds of opportunities. Also right now, there’s nothing that would prohibit [transgender athletes] from playing against [females] in a contact sport, which poses a significant safety risk for some of our athletes,” Birkeland said.

‘Not a transgender bill’

She said her goal is to ensure the playing field is fair and safe for female athletes playing in school sports.

“This bill is not a transgender bill. It is a women’s bill. It is pro-women. And I think the narrative are a little bit stolen, and that’s an unfortunate part of legislation, right? This bill is about making sure that women know that they matter, and that we respect them enough to provide a fair and safe playing field,” Birkeland said.

Lee pointed out that Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he was uncomfortable with parts of the bill in its current form after the House passed it last week, mostly along party lines.

“Have you had interactions with with Governor Cox and is this bill moving forward?” Lee asked.

Birkeland acknowledged that the governor has reached out to her about her bill.

“Now, people are wanting to come to the table and compromise, which is wonderful to me. This bill was never about anything but the kids,” she said.

No third group for transgender athletes

“Can you talk to me more about what are some of these compromises? Like will there be maybe a third category of competitors?” Lee asked.

“No third category, that’s not something that we’re prepared to do right now,” Birkeland said. “This is a very sensitive issue. You don’t want anybody in this process to feel like they’re being seen as less than. Right? It’s hard to balance the concerns and needs of one group without taking away the civil rights of another group.”

No competition against biological females

Birkeland discussed what role transgender athletes would play under her bill.

“The idea that we’ve come up will allow all to try out and be part of a team, perhaps as practice players or actual participators on the team. But if they’re to compete as a transgender woman, their scores, their times and their stats, they will not be counted — so that they [transgender athlete] don’t compete for scholarships.

“They can be part of the team and can have the camaraderie that they’re seeking and be included, but it’ll create a balanced and fair playing field. They won’t be competing against biological females for those scholarships and those opportunities to have a state title or championship,” Birkeland said.

Opposition to the bill 

Sue Robbins with Equality Utah spoke with Dave & Dujanovic earlier in the day on KSL NewsRadio. 

Robbins said at the heart of the matter of the bill to bar transgender athletes from competing in female sports is older versus younger athletes, specifically prepubescent juveniles.

“When we look at those, they’re basically body neutral to each other. Puberty is where changes potentially come in,” she said. “Puberty is where we have transgender girls go on hormone blockers, which basically is a pause button and keeps them from going into puberty, so their body stays at that same level. They don’t build muscle mass. They don’t go through growth, etc.

“We’re in fear of these large boys with our girls, and that’s not the comparison that we should be doing,” Robbins said.

With the Legislature wrapping up its session on March 5, Robbins would like to see the discussion moved to the interim period for further study. 

“There is no pressing need, yet we’re driving forward. And that’s the most concerning thing because the transgender kids are feeling like they don’t belong,” Robbins said.

The bill now moves to the Utah Senate.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

We want to hear from you.

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

Politics + Government

gov cox speaks during memorial day event...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

‘I love my country’: Veterans, Gov. Cox focus on service, honoring military on Memorial Day

Gov. Spencer Cox at a Memorial Day service in Salt Lake stressed the importance of service and honoring veterans who have died while serving.

5 hours ago

mitt romney at johns hopkins commencement ceremony...

Sam Herrera

Mitt Romney’s commencement speech at Johns Hopkins University interrupted by protesters

Sen. Mitt Romney was briefly interrupted by protestors as he spoke at Johns Hopkins University's commencement ceremony on Thursday,

4 days ago

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at the City-County Building in Salt Lake City, May 5, 2...

Aimee Cobabe

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is asking for a pay raise

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is looking to increase her pay for up to 26% which will make an additional $44,000 a year. She is also proposing a 5% pay increase for all city employees for this year.

5 days ago

Senator Mitt Romney addresses ongoing drought conditions in Utah during a Budget Committee hearing ...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Senator Mitt Romney says we should be doing more to combat drought

Senator Mitt Romney is taking a look at how money is being spent on drought-related issues and pushing for more collaboration on the subject.

5 days ago

nikki haley shown, she endorsed trump...

Sam Herrera

Nikki Haley endorses Trump for president

The endorsement comes months after Haley ended her own presidential bid in March.

5 days ago

the us house of representatives shown at the capitol, the house passed a bill about sodium nitrite...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

House passes bill to ban a compound used in suicides

Legislation backed by Rep. Celeste Maloy would ban the consumer sale of sodium nitrite, a product becoming increasingly common in suicides.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

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.

Lawmaker discusses her bill to bar transgender athletes from girls’ sports