More than half of Utahns support a new law passed by the Utah legislature that bars transgender girls from participating in women’s school sports, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.
The poll of 804 registered voters was conducted from April 5-12, after the recent special session called by lawmakers on March 25 to overturn Utah Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of HB11, which bars transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports in high school.
Forty-four percent said they strongly supported the law, while 10% said they supported it somewhat. Conversely, 9% say they oppose HB11 somewhat while 30% say they strongly oppose it. Seven percent answered “don’t know”. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46%.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, said in committee and indoor debate that she sponsored HB11 to preserve the integrity of women’s athletics. Some lawmakers have said they support the final version of the legislation to protect their daughters.
“Defending Utah’s female athletes has always been my goal, and I’m encouraged that a majority of Utahns feel the same way,” Birkeland said in a statement responding to the poll results.
The results revealed that more than half of men surveyed – 51% – strongly supported the legislation, compared to 37% of women. Sixty-one percent of men were strongly or somewhat in favor of the law, while 47% of women were in favor. Almost as many women – 46% – said they were somewhat or strongly opposed to HB11.
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education at the Utah Pride Center, said poll results show less than half of women surveyed support banning transgender girls from participating in sports. for girls in high school.
“With only 37% strongly supporting the ban, it is clear that it is not in the best interests of women. I think as women we want all girls to play and participate in sports. This includes our transgender girls,” she said.
Lawmakers’ passage of HB11 sent a “heartbreaking” message to Utah’s transgender community, she said.
“It told our transgender girls that they didn’t belong in the sport. It told them that they weren’t enough. It’s something that all girls can relate to. Whether it’s a transgender girl or a cisgender girl. We’ve all been shown that we’re less than to some extent to men. It’s another way for men to control the narrative around women. Now they decide who’s girl enough. What’s the next step for our daughters?” said Darrow.
The poll results reflected greater support for the law among older people than younger people, with just over a third of people aged 18 to 40 in favor of the law. That compares with 57% of 41-56 year olds who said they strongly support the ban.
The highest levels of strong support were among those who identify as “very active” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 59% and those who are “very conservative” at 76%. Conversely, among those who identified as “very liberal,” 83% strongly opposed it.
People with higher levels of education were less supportive than people with less education, although all were in the 40% range – with college graduates and those with higher education indicating 41% in favor of high school graduates and some colleges at 47%.
The greatest disparity between the subgroups was between political parties, with 60% of Democrats strongly opposed and 57% of Republicans strongly in favor.
HB11 passed in the final hours of the general session of the Utah legislature. After introducing similar legislation in 2021, which passed the Utah House of Representatives but stalled in the Utah Senate, Birkeland presented the legislation to an interim committee for a public hearing in 2021.
She presented HB11 in the 2022 session, which called for the creation of a commission to address issues related to transgender student participation in athletics. The bill passed the House with a 52-16 vote and was narrowly approved by the Senate Business and Labor Committee.
On the last night of the legislative session, a replacement version of the bill barring transgender girls from participating in high school sports was unveiled in the Utah Senate, catching Democratic lawmakers and the governor by surprise.
Cox announced before the final votes on the bill that he would veto it. It passed both legislative bodies.
As promised, Cox vetoed HB11, but the Legislature convened to override his veto.
In a letter explaining his decision to veto the bill, Cox noted that 75,000 young people participate in high school sports in Utah, including four transgender students and one transgender student who plays women’s sports.
Cox’s letter noted that transgender youth have significantly higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
On March 25, lawmakers met in extraordinary session. The Utah Senate voted 21 to 8 and the House of Representatives voted 56 to 18 to override the governor’s veto of HB11, which is set to take effect July 1.
Following the special session, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said lawmakers expected litigation, which is why they passed legislation to compensate the app. of the ban.
The actions of the Utah Legislature have Darrow wondering, “When are we going to lead with love and compassion and tell our fellow human beings that they are enough, that they are loved, and that they belong? When will we raise the voice of many and not just a few?
“If only 37% of women strongly support this ban and want to exclude our daughters from Utah sports, when will the rest of us stand up for inclusion? Transgender girls are girls and they belong to everyone spaces, especially in Utah Sports.