Transgender school sports bill halted in Utah Senate

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Pro transgender rights sign outside State Senate Hearing Room during HB 302 hearing.

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A bill aiming to exclude transgender youth from playing girls’ sports was highly contested at the capitol during a Senate committee hearing.

House Bill 302 is aimed at preserving female sports the way they are, without a competitive edge against girls. Representative Kera Birkeland says she cares about girls’ sports and would like only girls competing in them at game time.

“Girl, boy, special needs, it doesn’t matter. When they walk on to a team in Utah that is full of girls, they are going to be included because women are loving and accepting. All is we are asking for, the only thing we want is fairness when we go to compete in our sports,” she told state senators during the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Among those speaking against the bill was Dr. Jennifer Plumb. You may know her from saving lives with the Utah Naloxone Campaign. Wednesday, she opened up publicly about a personal issue.

“I’m a mom of a trans kid,” she told state senators.

While talking to ABC4’s Jason Nguyen, Dr. Plumb says, “It is really important to me that our trans youth feel valued and that my child who is a trans youth feels valued, and welcomed in any space, and never feels excluded.”

During the hearing, one republican was critical of the bill.

“I hate your bill. I’m sorry, it just really, really sucks,” Senator Jacob L. Anderegg of Salt Lake County says.

Dr. Plumb was shocked at the comment from Sen. Anderegg.

“That was something right? Because that was a totally different experience than what it was in the previous committee hearing where there was none of that.”

Sen. Anderegg says the bill doesn’t consider transition among many other things.

“At what point do you make them transition, that is part of this discussion but it is not apart of this bill.”

Rep. Birkeland says this comes down to Title IX and having sports girls can play. It was quickly contested.

Democrat Senator Luz Escamilla of Salt Lake County asks, “My question to you from a policy perspective, do you find that to be fair? Why don’t you prohibit that on the other side as well? Why don’t you prohibit that on the other side as well? So, I mean forget Title IX. Sometimes we don’t care that much about the federal government here.”

Overflow room for HB 304

Others came up to the microphone but one message came through clearly from an NCAA representative representing the Univesity of Utah, Utah State Univesity. Salt Lake Community College, and Westminster College.

“This is a nuanced and complex issue. If HB 302 or any of its forms is adopted it will carry damaging consequences to athletes, educational institutions, and the State of Utah,” says the representative.

State senators decided to ‘move’ on the bill, basically tabling it.
It’s welcoming news to the Transgender Education Advocates of Utah.

“I think it is not done. I mean, I think we will be back here and this conversation is going to be ongoing, and we need to have this conversation,” says T.E.A. Executive Director Dr. Candice Metzler. “So my hope is, we can take this back a little bit, have some of these conversations outside of the public view and save our youth having to be trivialized in this way.”

For Dr. Plumb, she left the hearing gratified saying, “It felt like these guys, these folks are getting it.”

After the hearing, Rep. Birkeland issued the following statement.

“While disappointed the Senate committee did not advance H.B. 302, I also trust in the legislative process,” she says. “This is a complex and sensitive issue and I appreciate the robust discussions I had with a broad group of stakeholders, colleagues, and constituents, and I thank all those who voiced their opinions. I will continue to stand up and speak out for past, current, and future female athletes fighting for the opportunity to compete fairly. I am optimistic we can continue to work together to create policies that preserve female sports.”

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