SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox threatened to veto a pair of bills that deal with transgender issues making their way through the legislature.
At his monthly news conference on PBS, the governor was asked about House Bill 302, sponsored by Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan. The bill would designate sports in public schools based on sex and prohibit transgender girls from participating in sports. Supporters said it's about fairness in athletics, and a young woman should not have to compete with someone who was once biologically male. Critics said the bill ostracizes an already vulnerable group of people.
Gov. Cox said he was not comfortable with the bill as it stands now and would not sign it, if it were to reach his desk. But the governor indicated he was meeting with Rep. Birkeland to discuss it. He has already met with LGBTQ rights groups about their concerns.
"I think there’s still much that we can do to protect women’s sports and also, to send a message to trans kids that there’s a place for them and they belong and that’s really important to me that they know that," the governor said.
As he spoke, Gov. Cox choked up and he began to cry as he spoke about the vulnerability of transgender youth in Utah.
"These kids are... they’re just trying to stay alive. There’s a reason none of them are playing sports and I just think there’s a better way," he said.
Asked about House Bill 92, which prohibits a physician from prescribing puberty blockers to transgender youth and also bans gender reassignment options on minors, Gov. Cox signaled that he would veto that one in its current form.
"I had threatened to veto that bill before," he said. "We have to be really, really careful anytime government gets in between doctors, families and patients."
HB92 is scheduled to be heard in the House Health & Human Services Committee on Friday morning.
In response to Gov. Cox's comments, the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah said it was working with him to address their concerns.
"We met with Gov. Cox yesterday to discuss the very real dangers inherent in these two bills. We know he is a champion for LGBTQ youth and that he will consider all the issues thoughtfully," said Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams. "We will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure that Utah’s LGBTQ youth can soar and thrive."