Utah Legislature enacts anti-trans sports ban after Republican lawmakers override Governor’s veto

A rally supporting trans youth was held outside the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Credit...Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News, via Associated Press/ NYT

State legislators in Utah voted to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of a Republican-backed sports bill banning transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports.


The move comes despite an impassioned veto letter (below) from Cox, who is also Republican, on Monday urging “kindness, mercy and compassion” and citing suicide rates among transgender youth.


“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about”, he said in his letter vetoing House Bill 11 (HB 11).

“Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. 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,” he wrote in a letter to Utah’s Senate president and House speaker. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”


Continuing his call to “find a better way”, the Governor said:

“I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly,” Cox added.

“For that reason, as much as any other, I have taken this action in the hope that we can continue to work together and find a better way. 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.”

However, despite his veto, in a 21-8 vote by the Utah Senate and a 56-18 by the state House, on 25 March Republicans circumvented him to enact the legislation.

The trans sports ban, which will prohibit trans students from participating in girls’ K-12 sports, is set to take effect on 1 July, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. 


Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley released the following statement:

“The Utah legislature shows no shame. Despite opposition from their own governor, Utah legislators continue to attack transgender children. Further, the state is opening itself up to legal challenges, as have followed similar laws in other states. The Utah legislature should focus on the real issues impacting Utahns, not needlessly attack a handful of vulnerable children who pose no threat and just want to play sports with their friends”, the statement reads.

“We sincerely thank Gov. Cox for seeing the humanity of transgender youth and speaking out against this discriminatory legislation. The Human Rights Campaign condemns this action by the Utah legislature and will continue to use every tool at our disposal to fight for the rights all transgender youth and their families.”


Utah becomes the 12th US state to enforce a variety of bans targeting trans kids in school sports, joining South Dakota and Iowa in passing legislation into law in 2022.


The move comes shortly after it was revealed that the annual number of anti-LGBTQ bills to have been filed in the US catapulted from 41 throughout the whole of 2018 to 238 in less than three months of 2022.

That amounts to more than 3 per day, with approximately over half of them levelled towards transgender people specifically.