Opponents of the Utah Legislature’s bill to ban transgender athletes from competing in school sports gathered together on the steps of the state Capitol on March 24 to protest the legislature’s efforts to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of House Bill 11 and rally in support of transgender youth in the state.
The rally began at 6 p.m. and featured a variety of speakers including advocates, educators, and transgender youth from Utah schools. Hundreds of protesters attended waving transgender pride and rainbow flags to show their support of LGBTQ+ Utahns.
Speakers at the event told their experiences of LGBTQ+ discrimination in Utah, reaffirmed support for transgender youth throughout the state, and praised Cox’s decision to veto the bill.
“I am here for no other reason than to tell trans youth that they are loved,” said Jace Deininger, a student at Park City High School and co-president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
A number of speakers referenced Cox’s letter to the legislature when he vetoed the bill, mentioning the fact that among the 75,000 students competing in high school sports in Utah, there are only four who are transgender.
Stacy Jackson Roberts, a social worker with a decade of experience working with transgender and non-binary people, said HB 11 is an unnecessary effort to discriminate against transgender youth.
“The state of Utah is spending $500,000 to prevent one individual from participating in high school sports,” she said.
Chris Wharton, a Salt Lake City Council member representing District 3, said the sports ban was another in a line of discriminatory bills aimed at LGBTQ Utahns over the years.
“I know what it feels like to have a supermajority of those in power raining down on you just for daring to be who you are,” he said.
Amanda Darrow, the youth, family and education director at the Utah Pride Center, praised those who helped organize the event.
“We organized this rally in 30 hours,” she said. Darrow also announced that the Utah Pride Center would ramp up youth activities and outreach in response to the legislation.
Towards the end of the event, the crowd joined together in chants of “We love you” and “You belong.”
On March 25, the legislature completed its override of Cox’s veto and put HB 11 into law. Both Wharton and Darrow said that they expected legal challenges to the bill as soon as it comes into effect on July 1.