March 23, 2022 -- Utah Gov. Spencer Cox made a plea for compassion on Tuesday after vetoing a bill that would ban transgender students from playing girls sports.

Cox told fellow Republicans the bill, H.B. 11, has “several fundamental flaws” and should be reconsidered. He said he was moved by data that showed among the 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, and only one played on a girls team.

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about,” he wrote in a letter to the state’s Senate president and House speaker.

“Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he wrote. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

Cox also cited research that showed how a sense of belonging could reduce the high suicide rates among transgender youths.

“I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live,” he said. “And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly.”

In response, legislative leaders announced plans to convene on Friday to discuss overriding Cox, who has called for a special session to amend the bill. In his letter, Cox said he hopes Utah lawmakers can “work together and find a better way” for students.

“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,” he said.

Cox was the second Republican governor to move against fellow Republican lawmakers on the issue this week, NBC News reported. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a similar statewide ban on Monday, saying that lawmakers hadn’t demonstrated that transgender kids undermine fairness in sports.

Nearly a dozen states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia -- have put bans in place that target transgender athletes.

Show Sources

NBC News: “Utah governor cites suicide rates for transgender youth in vetoing sports ban bill: ‘I want them to live.’”

Utah State Legislature: “H.B. 11: Student Eligibility in Interscholastic Activities.”

State of Utah Office of the Governor: Letter to Utah Senate president and House speaker, March 22, 2022.

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