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High school activities group worried about looming lawsuit if transgender athlete ban veto overidden

Mar 23, 2022, 11:57 AM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am

UHSAA David Spatafore...

David Spatafore, with the Utah High School Activities Association, speaks during a Health and Human Services Interim Committee meeting at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Transgender youth’s participation in school sports was discussed during the meeting. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah High School Activities Association is worried about footing the bill if a lawsuit comes against H.B. 11. The bill, amended on the final day and in the final hours of the legislature, bans transgender girls from playing girls’ sports in Utah.

Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the bill Tuesday afternoon.

Where the association stands

As things stand right now, if a lawsuit comes down, the UHSAA would foot the bill.  While the association says it remains neutral in its stance on the bill, it can’t afford to fight a lawsuit.

“Our position on House Bill 11 has been a neutral position,” said spokesman David Spatafore. “Currently we have a policy dealing with transgender students that we administer and we oversee. And it’s proven to be successful.”

Spatafore says the group will follow whatever policy the governor and lawmakers decide on, but they want to be indemnified. The association wants to protect itself from any possible legal action that could come down from the bill.

“If the bill is vetoed and is overridden, we would be concerned if there’s not an indemnification,” said Spatafore. “If there’s a special session that would amend the bill that would provide indemnification, then that’s okay, too.”

Spatafore added that UHSAA would administer whatever policy it is told to. 

The governor said if lawmakers do override his veto, he’ll call them back into another special session to make sure UHSAA is indemnified. 

How UHSAA works

UHSAA serves about 150 schools that opt-in to the association — each of the 150 pay to participate in the association’s tournaments, and that’s how UHSAA gets their funding.

Spatafore reports around 72,000 students participate in activities across those 150 schools. Students participating in multiple activities– which includes debate, speech, and drama–could be counted twice. 

Four of those students are transgender. One of them is playing girls’ sports.

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High school activities group worried about looming lawsuit if transgender athlete ban veto overidden