SLC leaders issue statement of support for transgender youth on eve of special session on sports ban

The Salt Lake City and County Building. Photo Courtesy: SLC.gov

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 24, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake City leaders issued a statement of support for transgender youth Thursday, one day before the Utah Legislature meets in a special session over a bill banning transgender athletes competing in girls sports.

“Salt Lake City loves and supports our transgender and non-binary friends,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council said in a joint statement on Twitter. “You have a place in our communities and the state of Utah.”

Gov. Spencer Cox has called for a special session at 2 p.m. Friday to consider financial and legal issues related to HB11. On Tuesday, Cox vetoed the bill, saying the legislation “has fundamental flaws and should be reconsidered.”

In a statement following the veto, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams, both Republicans, said they expect the Legislature to override the veto.

HB11 prohibits “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students,” regardless of their gender identity. The bill passed on the final night of the 45-day legislative session.

“We consider this action to be particularly tragic, given that the responsibility of all lawmakers is to provide equal protection and dignity under the law to all people,” the statement from mayor and City Council continues.

The Utah Pride Center hosted a rally Thursday evening at the Capital to “stand up and show transgender youth they are loved and supported, even when lawmakers may choose to pass discriminatory laws against them,” according to an Instagram post from the nonprofit organization.

In their statement Thursday, city leaders also noted the risk of mental health issues and suicide among transgender youth, saying HB11 “will tragically and unnecessarily add to those statistics.”

HB11 originally included the creation of a commission to evaluate transgender athletes’ participation in school-sponsored sports. Under the proposal, the commission could prevent a transgender athlete from participating in girls sports if it was determined the athlete “could pose a safety threat or dominate a sport in a way that would eliminate competitive opportunities for biological females,” according to a letter the governor sent to legislative leadership Tuesday explaining his veto.

Ultimately, state lawmakers opted to ban transgender youth participation in girls sports altogether, an action the governor says puts “our entire state athletics program in danger” because the Utah High School Activities Association “will inevitably get sued under this bill.”

Cox also noted there are just four transgender athletes among the 75,000 high schoolers participating in sports in Utah, and only one of those is a transgender student playing girls sports.

“Participating in sports is not just about who is winning,” the statement from Mayor Mendenhall and the City County continues. “It is about being part of a group, having fun and staying healthy. Denying transgender youth the right to participate in sports is further ostracizing and harming them.

“However, we, the mayor and City Council of Utah’s capital city, want you to know that you are welcome here, you have a place, and you belong.”

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