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Ban on transgender athletes in Utah girls’ sports stalls

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, opens the Utah Legislature's 2021 general session in the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A State Senate Committee did not advance a bill to the full floor of the Utah Senate that would prevent transgender athletes from competing against girls in school sports. 

Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan) introduced a new version of H.B. 302 on Wednesday that would allow transgender youth to play on girls’ teams except when competing with teams from other schools. She said the bill changed with “a lot of insight” from the governor’s office, telling members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday that the bill was never about not including others, but rather was about preserving women’s sports.

“This is a complex and sensitive issue and I appreciate the robust discussions I had with a broad group of stakeholders, colleagues, and constituents, and I thank all those who voiced their opinions. I will continue to stand up and speak out for past, current, and future female athletes fighting for the opportunity to compete fairly. I am optimistic we can continue to work together to create policies that preserve female sports,” says Birkeland.

As originally written, the bill would prohibit a student of the “male sex” from participating in athletic activities designated for female students. Second and third versions were presented, which included an adjustment of the language of the bill that would allow transgender girls to practice with girls high school teams but would still ban them from competing.


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


 

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson says that it is undeniable that the benefits of athletic competition should be preserved for the girls of our state, and every student should feel included and valued.

Troy Williams, head of Equality Utah, says news that the H.B. 302 did not advance is a victory. He said they are grateful to the members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for their actions taken on Wednesday to not allow HB 302 to move forward, saying the state is doing the right thing to protect all children.

Transgender Education Advocates of Utah called Wednesday night’s action good for young people in Utah. Executive Director Dr. Candice Metzler said students benefit when everyone is included.

“Being inclusive of transgender and gender-diverse young people benefits all students, because it creates a safer environment for everyone and promotes a culture where difference and vulnerability can safely exist,” according to Dr. Metzler.

The decision stalls HB302, a bill that Gov. Spencer Cox voiced concerns over last week, and makes it more difficult to pass during the 2021 legislative season. Last week, the Utah House of Representatives voted 50-23 in favor of H.B. 302. The session ends March 5. 

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