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Utah legislature overrides Governor Spencer Cox's veto to ban transgender athletes from girls sports

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Members of Utah's House and Senate have voted to override Governor Spencer Cox's veto of a controversial bill that bans transgender student athletes from participating in girls sports. The bill, titled HB11, has been framed as a protection of women's sports, but critics have called it an "attack" on transgender children. 

At a special meeting on Friday, the Utah House passed the "Student Eligibility in Interscholastic Activities" bill 56-18 in favor of the override, and the Senate voted 21-8. 

The meeting was held after Cox vetoed the bill on Tuesday, saying that only four transgender children in the state of Utah currently play sports, and only one of them is a girl. The governor also noted the speed of which the bill was passed, the lack of input from the public and the high rate of suicide among transgender youth. 

"I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion," Cox wrote in a letter explaining his decision. "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."

Cox was the second governor this week to veto legislation focused on transgender participation in sports. On Monday, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb also vetoed a bill banning transgender athletes from choosing their own sports teams, saying he found no evidence of unfairness. 

But critics maintain bills like HB11 unfairly target transgender children under the guise that they make the playing field uneven. 

"Despite opposition from their own governor, Utah legislators continue to attack transgender children," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement Friday. "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."

Without legal challenges, the bill will go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year. 

According to the Associated Press, Utah joins 11 other states with bans targeting transgender athletes: Alabama, FloridaTexasArkansasMississippi, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

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