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Bill on transgender student athletes in Utah may be close to compromise

Posted at 5:08 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 19:39:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers may reach a compromise with LGBTQ rights groups over a controversial bill on transgender student athletes.

FOX 13 News has learned Governor Spencer Cox met with House Bill 11's sponsors, the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah and Senate President J. Stuart Adams on Wednesday night, following a close 4-3 vote to pass the bill out of a Senate committee. The governor has been pushing for a compromise on the bill.

HB11 creates a special commission to evaluate whether transgender children are eligible to play school athletics. The bill has both social conservatives and LGBTQ rights groups opposed to it. Social conservatives want a ban on transgender children playing sports; LGBTQ rights groups object to the partisan appointments of the commission and evaluations of the physical characteristics of a transgender child to determine eligbility to play sports.

The Senate President on Thursday signaled that HB11 might be amended to appease transgender rights groups.

"There’s probably some things that maybe need to be looked at. I’m not sure about the criteria that is listed in the bill as far as it was a may look at some different attributes, I’m not sure they need to be listed or not. Whether they get pulled or changed, I’m not sure. It is a great bill but probably some refining it has to do," Sen. Adams, R-Layton, told reporters.

He defended the overall concept of the bill, noting that other states have banned transgender students from participating in sports.

Dr. Candice Metzler, the executive director of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, said they would like to see the final language of the bill before offering any support, but was glad to hear the Senate President's remarks.

"I think it’s difficult enough to say we’re going to put a committee together where we’re going to have people in front of that committee and get approval to participate in sport, which I already have concerns about," Dr. Metzler told FOX 13 News. "Then you take that and say well then you have to provide information about bone density and weight and the length of your legs, what have you, that just creates a barrier that people don’t want to go through."

Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, said as it is written right now, they cannot support it.

"We are currently opposed to HB11. The current language, which outlines physical characteristics, such as wingspan and hip-to-knee ratios, will be demeaning to transgender youth. These exceptional students already experience gender dysphoria. Having their bodies scrutinized would be humiliating. We have requested the sponsor remove this language. The current legislation does not yet strike a balance between fairness and inclusion," he said in a text message.

Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, told FOX 13 News on Thursday she is planning an amendment to her bill that would remove the language on physical attributes.

"We are working on it," she said.

The bill could come up for a floor debate in the Senate at any time. Dr. Metzler expressed hope for a solution on the bill.

"I do think there are people listening. I think Gov. Cox is listening and I think Gov. Cox is providing leadership that can help steer us through this really difficult conversation," they said. "I think there is hope."