Advocates oppose bill restricting transgender athletes in Utah sports
Editorial Note: This story is part of a two-part conversation around a bill to ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports in Utah. Read more and listen to the other side of the conversation here.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House passed a bill last week banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ school sports, but Gov. Spencer Cox said he has reservations about signing it in its current form .
Sue Robbins, former board chair of the Utah Pride Center and Transgender Education Advocates, shared her views on the legislation with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic.
Bill OK along party lines
Rep. Kera Birkeland’s bill passed Wednesday at Utah House by a vote of 50 to 23 — mostly by party — and would now require public schools across the state to designate sports activities based on “gender” and not of the kind”. This would effectively ban transgender female athletes from participating in women’s school sports in Utah.
Republican Morgan’s Bill – HB302entitled Preserving Sports for Female Students – “requires schools and local educational agencies to designate sports activities by gender, prohibits a male student from participating in a sports activity intended for female students”.
Under the bill, sex is defined as “the biological and physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”
“It’s very important to me that we have a level playing field for our women,” Birkeland said, in a Facebook Live video.
Idaho is the only state to pass a similar law last year, but it has been stalled in federal court as a trial unfolds, according to the Associated press.
Democrats weigh in
The Utah House Democratic caucus had this response when the bill passed.
— Utah House Democrats (@utahhousedems) February 17, 2021
Biden signs executive order
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed a Executive Decree that would prevent and combat discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Each person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or who they love. Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to toilets, changing rooms or school sports.
Contribution from the Governor of Utah
“I think we can still do a lot to protect women’s sport, and also to send a message to trans children that there is a place for them and that they belong. And it’s really important to me that they know that,” Cox said at a press conference last week.
“These kids are – they’re just trying to stay alive. There’s a reason none of them play sports and…I just think there’s a better way. And I hope there’s there will be enough grace in our state to find a better solution,” Cox said at the press conference.
During his monthly press conference, @GouvCox said the way a current bill banning transgender girls from high school sports he wouldn’t sign if placed on his desk. He says the bill is complicated and both sides of the issue are right. https://t.co/KJ4fDxYR2c #utpol pic.twitter.com/7xi1cN63Ck
— PBS Utah (@pbsutah) February 18, 2021
Dave and Dujanovic
“As the Governor described it. . . you could hear it in his voice how emotional he was. He said, ‘Why it’s hard is because both sides are right,’ which is something you don’t hear very often, Dave noted.
Dave and Debbie discussed legislation affecting trans female athletes with Sue Robbins of Equality Utah and the Transgender Advisory Council, and co-host of Everyday People at KRCL RadioACTIve, raising LGBTQ+ voices and issues.
“Can you help us resolve some of these issues and why this bill is problematic for you?” Dave asked.
Robbins said that at the heart of the issue of transgender athletes participating in women’s sports are older athletes versus younger athletes, particularly prepubescent juveniles.
“When we look at them, they are basically neutral to each other. Puberty is where changes can potentially take place,” she said. “Puberty is where transgender girls take hormone blockers, which are basically a pause button and stop them going into puberty, so their bodies stay the same, they don’t build muscle mass, they don’t go through growth, etc. .
“We’re scared of these big boys with our girls, and that’s not the comparison we should be making,” Robbins said.
“As you describe this, Sue, I see where you are coming from. If the bodies are the same, then the opportunity should be the same,” Dave said.
See you next year
“Is there room for compromise, this [legislative] session or do you want it to be tabled for the time being and the discussion to take place in the meantime? Debbie asked.
As the Legislative Assembly ends its session on March 5, Robbins would like to see the issue of transgender female athletes in school sports moved to the interim period and bring all the experts into the discussion.
“There is no pressing need, yet we are moving forward. And that’s the most concerning thing because transgender kids feel like they don’t belong,” Robbins said.
The bill is now moving through the Utah Senate.
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9-11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.