Utah Passes Bill Banning Transgender Athletes from K-12 Girls’ Sports

University of Montana cross country runner Juniper Eastwood, center, warming up with her teammates at Campbell Park in Missoula, Montana. (Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP, file) Photo Source: University of Montana cross country runner Juniper Eastwood, center, warming up with her teammates at Campbell Park in Missoula, Montana, file photo, Aug. 15, 2019. (Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

A Utah bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports in the public school system was voted through the state’s House of Representatives last Wednesday.
The House Bill 302, titled Preserving Sports for Female Students, was sponsored by representative Kera Birkeland and passed with a vote of 50-to-23.
Under the bill, transgender individuals would not be allowed to play on public school team sports that are designated for girls. Public schools will need to designate participation in sports activities by a student's sex.
Birkeland, who is also a girl's basketball coach, explains that the bill is not meant to discriminate against transgender individuals, but that it would create a level of fairness for female athletes. Birkeland shares in her address to the House floor, “Women’s sports matter in Utah. They matter to me and they matter to every parent of young girls and they matter to every athlete out there trying their best.”
Birkeland and the many co-sponsors of the bill argue that a bill such as this would level the playing field for female athletes as they would not have to compete against other athletes who identify as females but are biologically male.
Representative Casey Snider shed light on the topic with his own experience. Snider explained, “In high school as a mediocre athlete on the men’s side, I would’ve qualified as a woman in the Olympic trials. In college, as a middle-of-the-pack athlete, I would have had a record as a woman that would still stand on the books today.” Snider adds, "We have to recognize that there are differences between men and women, and that when we put certain individuals in girls' sports, we are taking the opportunities for girls to win."

State Democrats Voice Their Opposition

House Democrats have voiced their objection to the Republican-backed bill in a statement made by the Utah House Democratic Caucus. Their statement explains that the bill “needlessly targets youth who are already marginalized and vulnerable to mental anguish and suicide.” The Caucus goes on to say, “To discriminate against transgender female athletes in Utah’s K-12 school sports is bad policy and reflects poorly on our entire state. If this bill is enacted, Utah may lose out on collegiate championships, the NBA All-Star Game, and the winter Olympics as well as the economic and reputational opportunities that come with hosting.”
The Democratic Caucus also challenges the legality of the bill citing that it is “likely unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and Utah State Constitution.” They go on to express that the bill goes against the “spirit” and inclusivity values of the state. Passage of the bill would reflect discrimination in the already marginalized LGBTQ community. 

Utah Bill is One of several Anti-Trans Athlete Bills

Utah is not the only state in the nation considering this type of legislation. A little over a dozen other states have introduced similar bills. Idaho passed legislation that would ban transgender girls from participating in public school girls' sports teams. However, that bill is facing an uphill battle as it was blocked by a federal court and is in the middle of litigation.
Montana passed legislation that is near-verbatim to that of Idaho. However, Montana leaves out a section that details how girls should “prove” their gender. It is this verbiage that led to the roadblocks that Idaho's bill is experiencing.
The Human Rights Campaign has made its voice known as it combats legislation in both Utah and across the Nation. HRC explains “There is a coordinated attack on trans kids being waged in state legislatures across the country right now.”
Utah's House Bill 302 goes against President Biden's executive order that prohibits discrimination in school sports based on gender identity. Now that the bill has passed the House floor, it will now make its way to the Utah Senate to be voted on.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, when she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.