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Utah’s GOP Gov. Vetoes Anti-Trans Bill, Cites Trans Youth Suicides

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox

"I don't understand what [trans student athletes] are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox wrote in a letter explaining his decision.


Utah's governor became the second Republican governor this week to veto his state's anti-trans sports bill, which targeted trans girls from participating in school sports.

Gov. Spencer Cox overruled the state's GOP-led legislature, calling attention to the mental health impact the law would have on trans youth in a letter to Republican leaders Tuesday.

He shared the letter on Twitter. "I know most won't read past a headline but please read my veto letter--especially if you disagree with me. The veto will be overridden on Friday and then we will have a special session to fix a few things. Trans sports is a terribly difficult issue," he wrote. "Please be kind to everyone."

The state only has four trans players out of 75,000 school athletes, according to the governor.

Only one of the four plays in girls' sports. The Associated Press reports that there have been "no public concerns about competitive advantages."

"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," Cox said in the veto letter. "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."

Cox cited two numbers in his letter from a 2020 study that found 86 percent of trans youth have reported suicidality and 56 percent have reported a suicide attempt.

"If a veto override occurs, I hope we can work to find ways to show these four kids that we love them and they have a place in our state," Cox wrote.

Republican leadership in Utah has already said they would vote to override the vote. They said that they had listened to their constituents, which is why they are moving to override the veto. "Doing nothing is taking a step backward for women. Finding a solution to this complicated issue is necessary to maintain fair competition now and in the future," Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said in a statement after the governor vetoed the bill.

The Utah governor acknowledged that the veto could cost him in November when he's up for reelection. "I recognize the political realities of my decision," Cox explained in his letter. "Politically, it would be much easier and better for me to simply sign the bill."

Lawmakers had previously been considering a bill that would set up a commission to determine trans student athletes' eligibility to compete under their gender identity. It had passed the House in February and moved to the Senate, and it had the governor's support, while LGBTQ+ advocates worried it would still marginalize young trans people. However, the total ban was introduced by GOP lawmakers four hours before the end of the state's legislative session, upending a year of negotiations between Utah lawmakers and LGBTQ+ rights advocates.

Eleven states have already passed legislation that targets trans athletes. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

Twelve other states are considering such legislation.

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