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Cox signs school choice, transgender youth bills into law

Gov. Cox
Posted at 10:22 AM, Jan 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-28 12:22:10-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox on Saturday signed two controversial bills into law that generated protests and heated debate on Utah's Capitol Hill.

The governor signed Senate Bill 16 and House Bill 215, issuing statements on both bills.

SB16 bans gender affirmation surgeries for minors and puts a moratorium on hormone therapies for any new transgender patients effective immediately. With no sunset date, LGBTQ rights groups say it is a de facto ban.

“Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation. While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue. More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences," Gov. Cox said in his statement.

"We will continue to push the Legislature for additional resources to organizations that work to help this important Utah community. While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures."

On Friday night, a couple dozen LGBTQ youth protested outside the governor's office and urged a veto, arguing SB16 would harm vulnerable transgender youth.

HB215 gave teachers a much-needed $6,000 per person salary increase. But the bill also tied a controversial school choice scholarship program to it, giving students who qualify $8,000 to spend at private schools, home schools or other options. The Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, said it is a voucher bill that strips money from public education.

“This bill strikes a good balance. More than 90% of parents support Utah schools and so do we. Our top priority this session has been a significant increase in teacher compensation and education funding. We commend the Legislature for supporting our teacher pay proposal which will help address the state’s teacher shortage and give Utah teachers the much-needed pay raise they deserve," the governor said. "We also appreciate that HB 215 gives Utah parents additional options to meet the needs of their families. School choice works best when we adequately fund public education and we remove unnecessary regulations that burden our public schools and make it difficult for them to succeed. We are especially appreciative of our teachers and education leaders who helped push for more accountability measures which were not included in the original bill."

On Thursday, Gov. Cox told FOX 13 News he had no plans to veto either bill.