Utah became the 12th state to prohibit biological males from playing on female sports teams when its legislature on Friday overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that has captured national interest.

The state Senate voted 21-8 to override the veto. That same day, the state House voted 56-18 to do the same. Both bodies are controlled by Republicans. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, had vetoed the bill, saying in a statement that he was concerned about lawsuits and did not believe the issue warranted legislation.

State Rep. Kera Birkeland sponsored the bill. Known as H.B. 11, it says students “of the male sex may not compete … with a team designated for students of the female sex in an interscholastic athletic activity.”

In Connecticut, two high school biological boys who identify as girls won 15 Connecticut state track titles.

Birkeland said the bill protects the “integrity of women’s sports.”

“High school girls across the state have expressed their concerns, and we owe it to them to listen,” she said. “Sports are their opportunity to overcome obstacles and break barriers. But in order to do that, they need a fair playing field.”

Birkeland, in a column for Desert News, said the bill upholds Title IX, a 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities.

“Today, we face a future where those hard-fought gains for equality are cast aside, where women are left as spectators in their own sports,” Birkeland wrote. “As transgender athletes began to compete, girls were forced to compete with people who held a biological advantage that is not erased with any degree of transition procedures.”

Cox argued that there are only four known transgender athletes in Utah schools. Birkeland said she is concerned about the 35,000 girls in Utah who want to compete on a level playing field.

“It has been disappointing, yet not surprising, that the side of this debate that preaches kindness, acceptance and understanding evidently has no issue with sending me and my family death threats, leaving profanity-laced voicemails, and sending harassing text messages, social media posts and emails,” Birkeland wrote. “It’s no wonder more female athletes aren’t speaking up. By doing so, they risk becoming targets themselves. I stand for that silent majority.”


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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Natasaadzic

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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