Utah bans trans students from playing girls sports despite governor’s veto

A crowd gathers in support of the trans community

Young trans athletes in Utah have been banned from competing in girls’ sports as lawmakers overturned the governor’s veto. 

House Bill 11 (HB 11) had been vetoed earlier this week by governor Spencer Cox after he questioned the need for the hateful legislation. 

He told lawmakers in a letter explaining his veto that only four of the estimated 75,000 high school students participating in sports in the state are trans, and only one is playing girls’ sports in Utah. Cox also cited that the trans sports ban would have a negative effect on the mental health of trans student-athletes. 

Republican lawmakers managed to gain enough votes on Friday (25 March) to circumvent Cox to enact the legislation. The Utah House voted 56-18 and the Senate voted 21-8 in favour of the override. 

The trans sports ban, which will prohibit trans students from participating in girls’ K-12 sports, is set to take effect on 1 July, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. 

Utah has now become the 12th state to enact some sort of ban on trans kids in school sports. It joins South Dakota and Iowa in passing such legislation into law this year.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) condemned conservative lawmakers for passing the trans sports ban into law, vowing to use “every tool at our disposal” to fight for trans youth in the state. 

Cathryn Oakley, the HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel, said the Utah legislature “shows no shame” in passing the bill and continuing to “attack transgender children”. 

“Further, the state is opening itself up to legal challenges, as have followed similar laws in other states,” Oakley added. “The Utah legislature should focus on the real issues impacting Utahns, not needlessly attack a handful of vulnerable children who pose no threat and just want to play sports with their friends.”

The ACLU of Utah said on Twitter that it was “deeply disappointed and saddened” that lawmakers would override Cox’s veto to “discriminate against transgender youth to exclude them from participating fully in sports”. 

“Litigation to stop HB 11 from taking effect is now both necessary and inevitable to endure Constitutional promises of equal protections for all Utahns,” the group said. 

Salt Lake City-based basketball team Utah Jazz released a statement denouncing the “discriminatory legislation”, Sports Illustrated reported. 

The statement read: “We are committed to our values of inclusivity, mutual respect, and fair play. 

“Beyond basketball, we hope for an equitable solution that shows love and compassion for our youth.”

Basketball legend Dwyane Wade is a minority owner of the Utah Jazz. The former NBA All-Star and his wife, Gabrielle Union, have been vocal in their support of their trans daughter Zaya’s identity.