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Utah bill banning trans athletes in girls sports stalls

| February 28, 2021 12:03 AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposal to ban transgender athletes from playing on girls sports teams is stalling in Utah, one of more than 20 states considering similar measures that opponents say would harm transgender teenagers.

The Utah Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to adjourn Wednesday night before voting on the bill with just about a week left before the legislative session ends March 5.

The lawmaker sponsoring the measure, Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland, said she was disappointed with the committee's decision but trusts the legislative process. Birkeland has said the bill would ensure fairness in women’s sports by making sure female athletes aren’t competing against those assigned as male at birth.

“This is a complex and sensitive issue and I appreciate the robust discussions I had with a broad group of stakeholders, colleagues, and constituents,” Birkeland said in a statement. “I will continue to stand up and speak out for past, current, and future female athletes fighting for the opportunity to compete fairly.”

Opponents of the proposal say it would discriminate against students who are told they can’t play with their peers.

“Today, Utah has again demonstrated that when it comes to protecting all children, we are on the same team,” Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said in a statement.

Similar bills have advanced in Tennessee and Montana. Idaho was the only state to pass a similar law last year, but it has been blocked in federal court as a lawsuit plays out.

The measures appear to run counter to an executive order signed by Democratic President Joe Biden during his first day in office prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.