Gov. Spencer Cox gained’t signal transgender sports activities invoice as now written
SALT LAKE CITY – A temporarily emotional governor, Spencer Cox, said Thursday he would not sign the current version of the law that goes through Utah law to allow transgender girls to participate in K-12 girls’ sports to forbid.
“I’m not in a place where I’m happy with the current bill,” Cox told reporters during his monthly press conference with PBS Utah Thursday morning. “These discussions continue. We still have a lot to do. “
Cox then paused and tore himself open.
“These kids are … they’re just trying to stay alive,” said Cox. “There’s a reason none of them exercise. I think there is a better way. And I hope that there is enough grace in our state for a better solution to be found. ”
NEW: I’ll press him for a yes or no as to whether he would sign @ KeraBirk’s bill
“I’m not in a place where I’m happy with the current bill,” @GovCox says. “These discussions are ongoing. We still have a lot to do.” #Utpol #utleg
– Katie McKellar (@ KatieMcKellar1) February 18, 2021
It’s not the first time Cox has positioned himself as an ally of the LGBT community. It went viral and made national headlines in 2016 after his heartfelt speech honoring the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, a gunfight at a Florida gay bar that killed 49 people. In that speech, Cox apologized for not being “friendly” at times to his classmates who he later found out to be gay.
“I apologize for getting a little emotional,” Cox told reporters on Thursday. “When you spend time with these children, it changes your heart in important ways. So I want to try to improve this message and see if we can’t find a better way to work together.”
Calling transgender youth sports legislation “one of the most complicated and difficult pieces of legislation” faced lawmakers in the 2021 session, Cox said “people on both sides of the problem are indeed right.”
“There is a lot of passion, a lot of fiery rhetoric, a lot of naming on both sides of the subject,” said the governor, adding, “There are biological benefits with your birth gender. These are biological facts and no one will dispute that. The fact is, too women’s sport has had a disadvantage for many, many years. We have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go. ”
Cox’s comments come the day after the House voted to approve Rep. Kera Birkeland’s law after heated debate. It is now going to the Senate for examination.
Cox said he believed Birkeland’s bill came from a “real place of concern” and comments “demonizing” her on the bill were not helpful. But he also urged people to think about the issue if they haven’t met or spoken to transgender children.
“If you haven’t been spending time with transgender youth, I would encourage you to take a break on this matter,” said Cox.
The governor added that Utah “has gotten really good on the LGBQ side of things,” but “we’re fighting on the T side of things. And we’ll work hard on it. I am still working with the sponsor. We have a meeting today to see how we can solve this problem in Utah. ”
When asked about Cox’s comments, Birkeland said in a text message to Deseret News, “I look forward to hearing what changes or languages the governor is hoping for.”
HB302 is strongly opposed by groups like Equality Utah and Democrats, who argue that it is “unnecessary (targeted) youth who are already marginalized and prone to emotional distress and suicide”.
Cox also said he threatened to veto another bill related to transgender issues: HB92, sponsored by Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City. Shipp’s bill would prohibit doctors from offering sex reassignment treatment to minors.
The original version of that bill, Cox said, had “many, many flaws”. But he said the latest version of Shipp’s bill was “closer to the medical standards that are now”.
“We had some conversations with Equality Utah and others on this bill yesterday,” said Cox. “I had previously threatened to veto this bill … So we always have to be very, very careful when the government intervenes between doctors, families and patients.”
Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said his group met with Cox on Wednesday “to discuss the very real dangers associated with these two bills.”
“We know that he is a champion for LGBTQ youth and that he will examine all issues carefully,” he said. “We will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure that LGBTQ youth in Utah can rise and thrive.”
Cox’s comments mean that if HB302 has a chance of becoming Utah law, it will need changes unless he chooses to go ahead and leave the law unsigned. However, it is possible that the bill could get into trouble in the Senate, where lawmakers have hinted it could be changed.
“I think it has some Senate support,” Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told reporters later Thursday. “But it can actually be changed so that the governor can sign it. I don’t know what will happen to this, but we will probably send it to a committee and walk it through the process. ”
Adams said there are “emotions on both sides” of the problem and it puts lawmakers in a difficult position to choose between being “compassionate” while addressing concerns of women athletes.
“I hear of women athletes who are concerned about going up against those who might appear as men. I think they are wondering how fair that is,” said Adams.
At the same time, Adams said, “We take pride in being compassionate, considerate and trying to be inclusive in Utah.”
“And so it becomes very difficult when you have such legislation,” added Adams. “So it will be very difficult to be compassionate and inclusive, and then be considerate of those who are concerned about competing against perhaps male athletes.”