Utah lawmakers override veto to ban biological males from competing in girls' sports

Athletes compete in the 5,000-meter final during the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field on April 23, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. | Getty Images/Steph Chambers

Utah lawmakers have voted to override Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill that, when enacted, will ban biological males from playing in student sports designated for females.

Known as House Bill 11, the measure had been vetoed by Cox earlier this month, who expressed concern about how the law would affect the well-being of trans-identified student-athletes.

But during a special session last Friday, the Republican-controlled Utah House of Representatives voted 56-18, and the GOP-majority Senate voted 21 to 8 to override the veto. The bill will go into effect on July 1.

The bill would prohibit “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students.” The legislation defines “sex” as the “biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”

The bill also prohibits “certain complaints or investigations based on a school or local
education agency maintaining separate athletic activities for female students.”

The override drew praise from conservatives who feel it will protect the integrity of female athletic competitions and scrutiny from LGBT advocacy groups who argue that it discriminates based on gender identity. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality denounced the veto override on it's Facebook page, contending that the new law will harm trans-identified minors.

“The Utah legislature’s actions today are nothing but an act of bullying, seeking to hurt trans children who are just trying to be themselves. Everyone should be able to play sports,” the organization stated. 

Terry Schilling, president of the socially conservative think tank American Principles Project, said in a statement that he believes the legislature’s override showed that the “movement to defend girls’ sports continues to gain momentum.”

“Utah’s legislators were courageous enough to stand up to the governor, as well as his powerful left-wing supporters, and pass the legislation over his veto,” stated Schilling.

“APP commends them for their effort to uphold biological reality, and we strongly encourage the remaining states without protections for female athletes to enact them before it’s too late.”

Schilling denounced Cox’s “cowardly actions” and said that he believed the overriding of the veto is a message to the governor that “voters aren’t buying your routine.”

“If you refuse to defend your constituents against the woke agenda being pushed on them by our radical elites, you will be forced to answer for it at the polls,” Schilling argued.

There has been much debate nationwide in recent years over policies allowing trans-identified biological males to compete in accordance with their gender identity in female athletic competitions. The debate has intensified as trans-identified athletes have been victorious at high schools and collegiate levels. 

Critics of such policies contend that they put biological females at a disadvantage when biological males are allowed to compete against them. They contend that, on average, biological males have larger muscle mass and higher bone density, which provides them with innate advantages. 

However, progressive organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have denied any “unfair” advantage for trans-identified biological males who compete in female athletics because success often depends on training and technique. They also argue that trans-identified “athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes.”

Utah will become the 12th state to enact policies requiring athletes to compete in athletic events based on their biological sex, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

Earlier this month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 2416 into law, which she referred to as “a victory for girls’ sports in Iowa.”

“No amount of talent, training or effort can make up for the natural physical advantages males have over females. It’s simply a reality of human biology,” stated Reynolds.

“Forcing females to compete against males is the opposite of inclusivity and it’s absolutely unfair.”

Gov. Cox is not the only Republican governor to veto such a bill. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana vetoed House Enrolled Act 1041 last Monday amid concerns the bill could bring lawsuits against the state. Holcomb also believes that the Indiana High School Athletic Association is doing a good job maintaining fairness in student sports without the new law.

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