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Utah governor condemns, censures transphobic school board member

utah governor spencer cox transphobic school board member Natalie Cline

The embattled member wrongly suggested a high school “tomboy” was trans, which led to a number of hate-filled posts directed at the student.

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox signed a resolution last week condemning and censuring the state school board member who shared a picture of a girls’ basketball team on social media and implied one of the athletes was transgender. The board of education also voted to strip the board member, Natalie Cline, of her official powers and ask for her immediate resignation, which she says she's not willing to do.

The resolution, officially titled H.C.R. 18 House Concurrent Resolution Condemning and Censuring State School Board Member Natalie Cline, was signed by Cox on Thursday.

The resolution “strongly condemns” and censures Cline for her social media post that “reprehensibly questioned the student’s gender publicly and without evidence” and led to “relentless harassment and bullying, including threats of violence” that required additional security at her school.

“The vast majority of Utahns agree that Natalie Cline’s behavior was unacceptable,” Cox said in a statement announcing he had signed the resolution. “I’ve spoken with the student’s parents and I’m heartbroken for this family. We agree with the actions of both the State Board of Education and Legislature, and we hope the voters will hold her equally accountable this fall.”

The Utah State Board of Education earlier had voted to strip Cline of her duties as a board member and called on her to resign over the incident.

“Free speech does not give anyone the right to target, intimidate or harm young students,” board member Emily Green said, reported by local NBC affiliate KSL-TV.

Cline posted a picture of a Granite School District’s basketball team to her public Facebook page on February 6 with the caption “Girls’ basketball.” The post implied that one of the girls, described by her parents as a tomboy, might be transgender, something Cline later appeared to confirm.

“She does have a larger build, like her parents,” Cline wrote in a later post after taking down the initial post. “We live in strange times when it is normal to pause and wonder if people are what they say they are because of the push to normalize transgenderism in our society.”

The original post led to a flurry of transphobic and hateful comments, as well as the public identification of the school and the student-athlete. Additional security was required for the student and the school because of the threats. The girl’s parents publicly called out Cline and called for her resignation.

“To look at someone’s outer appearance and make an assumption that they’re either playing in the right arena or not, based on how someone looks, I don’t think is appropriate,” the student's mother, Rachel van der Beek, told KSL.

The student's father, Al van der Beek said his daughter “cut her hair short because that’s how she feels comfortable, she wears clothes that are a little baggy, she goes to the gym all the time, so she’s got muscles.”

Cline will stand for reelection in November and has refused to resign.

"You can't step into this arena without making mistakes, and there is not a single person who has gotten into office that has done everything perfectly," she told KUTV. "But I have done my very best. I say make your decision at the ballot box and I am fine with whatever way the voter decides."

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