Ban on transgender athletes in Utah girls’ sports stalls

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2021, file photo, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during a briefing at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News, via AP, Pool, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposal to ban transgender athletes from female sports teams in Utah stalled Wednesday, days after the Republican governor voiced doubt about the bill.

At least 20 states are considering similar proposals that opponents say would discriminate against an already marginalized group.

Its sponsor, Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland, said in a statement that she was disappointed a panel of lawmakers held the bill, but she recognizes it’s a complex issue. “I am optimistic we can continue to work together to create policies that preserve female sports,” she said.

Birkeland has argued her proposal is aimed at ensuring fairness by making sure female athletes aren’t competing against those assigned male at birth. There are no transgender athletes currently competing in school sports in Utah.

Opponents say the bill would hurt transgender kids, and, if passed, could expose the state to lost revenue, as when North Carolina passed the so-called “bathroom bill” in 2016. It also runs counter to Democratic President Joe Biden’s executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports.

Troy Williams with the group Equality Utah applauded the outcome, calling Republican Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson “true peacemakers who care for LGBTQ kids.”

Cox said last week he wouldn’t sign the bill as it stood, though he acknowledged concerns from Birkeland and her supporters. The bill passed the Utah House, but it stalled in the state Senate.

Similar proposals have advanced in states like Mississippi, North Dakota, Montana and Tennessee.

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