Utah governor vetoes bill banning transgender children from girls’ sports citing high suicide rates

‘I want them to live’

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 24 March 2022 15:09 GMT
Utah governor Spencer Cox
Utah governor Spencer Cox (AP)

Utah governor Spencer Cox has been praised by LGBT+ campaigners after he vetoed a bill that would ban transgender students from taking part in girls’ sports.

In a rebuke to Republicans on Tuesday, the governor called on legislators and supporters of the Utah bill to show “compassion” to transgender children, who he said were being unfairly targeted by Republicans with sports bans.

“I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting,” wrote Mr Cox of the arguments around transgender participation in sports. “When in doubt, however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

Citing suicide rates among LGBT+ youth as a reason for his rebuttal, Mr Cox explained in his letter that of 85,000 registered sports players in Utah’s schools, as few as four were transgender.

“Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” said the Republican.

He continued: “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

While Republican legislators say a ban on transgender children from girls’ sports would protect others from unfair competition, campaigners say the issue is overblown – and also without evidence.

“Governor Cox heard the voices of transgender students and their families, medical experts, the business community, and advocates for fairness in sports,” said Cathryn Oakley, of the Human Rights Campaign non-profit, on Tuesday.

“He’s shown that he sees the humanity of the transgender youth targeted by this legislation – something governors in states like South Dakota and Iowa have refused to do.”

Mr Cox became the second Republican state leader in 24 hours to push back against bills banning transgender children from girls’ sports on Tuesday, after Indiana’s governor vetoed a similar ban on Monday.

More than 20 US states have proposed or introduced such a bill, with at least 11 states enacting bans on transgender children in sports.

Most states have not been able to show evidence of transgender children causing disagreements or even competing, according to the Associated Press earlier this month.

Utah Republicans are expected to challenge the veto.

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