How Utah’s Student Eligibility in Interscholastic Activities bill could affect sports

In 2022, several legislative sessions across the United States proposed and even passed 25 bills that could limit interscholastic sports participation of the LGBTQIA+ community. Utah is among several states that approved such legislation.

On March 10, the Utah legislature passed HB0011 which requires all transgender students to under go a physical evaluation in order to compete in sports. 

The bill created the School Activity Eligibility Commission which outlines specific physical requirements like height, weight, body mass, flexibility, wingspan and other characteristics affected by puberty that transgender students would have to meet in order to get the commission’s approval. 

The commission would consist of medical professionals, representatives of athletic associations and school coaches who would be appointed by majority party members of the Utah government. 

Utah became the 12th state to restrict transgender athletes from competing in girls sports. Under the imminent law, it prohibits “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students.”

On March 22, Utah Governor Spencer Cox vetoed HB0011 in support of the trans community.

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” Cox said. “I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

 On March 25, the Utah Legislature voted 56-18 to override the governor’s veto.

In an op-ed written for the Salt Lake Tribune, Gordon Monson mocked the bill.

“What are we afraid of here?” Monson wrote. “That a bunch of boys will insincerely avalanche into girls’ sports in order to gain some competitive advantage, to slake some hearty thirst for winning?”

The bill detailed that if a student does not pass the commission’s test, then they would not be allowed to participate in the gender-designated interscholastic activity. 

Despite the issue being controversial among athletes and LGBTQIA+ groups, other concerns regarding Utah’s reputation have come up. 

Some U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee leaders worry that the national attention could determine if Utah will be able to hold another Winter Games in the coming years. 

“We are worried about legislation that takes a very kind of black-and-white view, of whether people can participate or not participate,” U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Chairwoman Susanne Lyons said.

Lyons acknowledged that transgender athlete competition is a “big issue” for the Olympic movement but will not have “any impact” on the bid to bring the Winter Games to Utah. 

The NBA All-Star Game is set to be hosted in Salt Lake City in 2023 and worries that the destination could be changed have risen.

The NBA has not publicly said anything about Utah’s bill but Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith tweeted that the bill was “rushed, flawed, and won’t hold up over time.”

The NBA has moved significant events from league cities in the past. In 2017, the All-Star Game was moved from Charlotte after the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that required transgender people to use bathrooms that matched the sex on their birth certificates. 

Another concern is the threat of upcoming lawsuits and boycotts directed at local school districts and the Utah High School Athletic Association. 

Out of the 75,000 youth athletes in Utah, there are only four current transgender athletes in the state playing sports. The state law will take effect on July 1. 

Article by Danielle Meuret and Lexi Hamel

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Hames on Unsplash