SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Utah’s House Education Committee narrowly passed a bill that proposes banning all transgender athletes from female high school sports teams.

The two-hour committee meeting heard voices from both sides on HB 302

Bill sponsor Representative Kera Birkeland said, “While inclusion is important in sports, it will come at the cost of fairness.”

Representative Karen Kwan responded, “I think that it is discriminatory.”

HB 302 eventually passed with a vote of 8-6. 

Representative Birkland acknowledged that there are currently no transgender athletes participating in high school sport in Utah, but says now is the time to pass this kind of legislation; “Across America, there are stories of individuals identified as male at birth competing against our female athletes.” She continued, saying that more research is needed to allow transgender athletes to compete fairly; “What kind of hormone therapy is needed to take away that competitive edge?”

A track athlete at Southern Utah University, Haley Tanne, testified for the bill. She shared her experience competing against a transgender athlete; “The first time I raced against a biological male it just felt bizarre like I was running with a giant.”

Opponents of the bill call it unnecessary and extremely harmful to the mental health and wellness of all transgender youth in Utah, who statistically are at a higher risk of suicide. 

Kelsey Kehoe is the Youth, Family, and Education Manager at the Utah Pride Center; they explained, “If we look at the Olympics they have had a trans-inclusive policy since 2004 and to date, there hasn’t been a single trans woman qualify for the Olympics. They also described Utah’s current policy as trans-inclusive. 

The Utah High School Athletes Association already requires male to female transitioning athletes to prove they have been on hormone therapy for at least a year and provide extensive documentation from medical professionals to demonstrate they live as a female in daily life. 

Troy Williams, Executive Director of Equality Utah said, “In 2020, the Idaho legislature passed this exact same bill and a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional. This judge was educated at BYU and appointed by Donald J. Trump.”

HB 302 now goes to the full House for debate.