POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Lawmakers overturn Gov. Cox’s veto on transgender athlete bill, make change immediately after

Mar 25, 2022, 7:33 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2022, 9:38 am
(The Senate meeting to discuss overturning Gov. Cox's veto.  Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, Ma...
(The Senate meeting to discuss overturning Gov. Cox's veto. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, March 25, 2022)
(The Senate meeting to discuss overturning Gov. Cox's veto. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, March 25, 2022)

SALT LAKE CITY — After emotional statements and protests outside of the Utah State Capitol, the legislature voted Friday to overturn the governor’s veto on the transgender athlete bill. Lawmakers tried to make three changes to it, but only one change made it through.

Ten Republican lawmakers in the House and five in the Senate changed their votes. It gave both chambers enough votes to overturn the governor’s veto. However, Senator Daniel Thatcher said he couldn’t support any bill that would exclude transgender student-athletes. Even, if it costs him his seat in an upcoming election.

Thatcher said, “So that I could win with the delegates, so that I could show that I’m conservative.  In my world, being conservative doesn’t mean turning your back on your principles. It does not mean voting against the constitution.”

Transgender athlete bill

In the end, H.B. 11 sponsor Rep. Kera Birkeland said the transgender athlete bill was about protecting women’s sports. And keeping female athletes on a fair playing field. She said Title IX was created specifically to provide women a way to participate in athletics programs. Also, she said allowing transgender girls to compete when they have an athletic advantage is essentially like telling other girls to “sit down and be quiet.”

She acknowledged that outside groups may decide not to bring their events to Utah. However, she said lawmakers should stand behind female athletes.

Birkeland said, “I’m not worried about what outside organizations may come and do in our state, or not do in our state.  Let’s be proud of who we have in our state. And let the free market explode here when we get behind women.  That’s what I believe we’re doing.”

One change goes forward

Governor Spencer Cox called for the special session immediately after the overwrite session to fix what he believes are flaws in the law. Lawmakers voted for a substitute version of the bill that would make it so school districts would be held blameless if a lawsuit is filed.  The state set aside $500,000 for upcoming legal challenges, but critics like Rep. Andrew Stoddard said that’s not enough money to cover legal costs.

He said, “We’re opening ourselves up to millions of dollars of litigation on a policy that we know is likely to be held as unconstitutional. In fact, I believe we’re planning on it being held unconstitutional by the fact that we’ve passed a bill that has a back-up.”

Birkeland disagreed, saying, “Litigation was likely coming whether we did anything today, or not.”

The proposed changes that failed

Rep. Karen Kwan tried to introduce a substitute bill that would replace H.B. 11 with the policies that were already established by the Utah High School Activities Association. She said the state needs to have a policy in place if the courts overturn the law.

“This is something that is not and should not be a ‘done deal’ as we continue to learn more about our students and about the science,” she said.

Her substitute bill was shot down, with Birkeland calling the UHSAA’s policy “flawed.”

Senator Luz Escamilla said the law could have an unintended consequence which could hurt cisgender girls.  She says the law makes it possible for someone to demand an investigation into a girl’s athletic performance if they’re taller or stronger than the other competitors.

Escamilla said, “A random person, whether it’s an angry parent or a mean person can now go to the commission and question a girl’s eligibility based on the way they look.”

Her substitute bill also failed.

Read more:

We want to hear from you.

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

Today’s Top Stories

Politics + Government

A bill that could make its way to the Utah legislature in the 2023 session would require school dis...
Mark Jones

Potential redesign of new Utah State Flag emphasizes Native American tribes

Sen. Dan McCay (R-Riverton) is sponsoring a bill that would call for a slight redesign of the new Utah State Flag.
24 hours ago
A pair of bills in the Utah Legislature address if and how Utah teens could use social media. One w...
Lindsay Aerts

Bill would require parental permission for Utah teens to use social media

Two bills circulating at the 2023 Utah Legislative Session involve social media, parents, and their teens. A group of tech CEOs opposes one.
24 hours ago
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., departs after attending a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill ...
Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona, CNN

George Santos tells House Republicans he wants off of his committees until issues are resolved

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia told CNN that it was Santos' decision that he made on his own to "abstain" from the committees.
24 hours ago
Nicole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, wipes away a tear during a press conference for SB117, a bi...
SAM METZ, The Associated Press

Petito family lobbies for ‘lethality assessment’ law in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When officers pulled over a van for speeding outside of Arches National Park in August 2021, they found a visibly distraught young couple in an emotional fight. Gabby Petito, 22, and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, were driving across the United States, and upon observing the couple, police officers in […]
24 hours ago
education legislation...
Mark Jones

One Utah lawmaker wants to ban cellphones in classrooms

One Utah lawmaker wants to ban cellphones in Utah classrooms.
2 days ago
FILE - A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at ...
Aimee Cobabe

Bill banning vaccine passports heading to Utah Senate

A bill to ban vaccine passports is heading out of the Utah House and into the Utah Senate. The bill is similar to a failed bill from 2022.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Lawmakers overturn Gov. Cox’s veto on transgender athlete bill, make change immediately after