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Cox Signs Bill Blocking Utah’s Compliance with New Title IX Regulations

With the signature, Utah is putting into action the recently enacted Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act.

A crowd gathers outside of the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City to protest of transgender bathroom restrictions on Jan. 25, 2024. (Kyle Dunphey/Utah News Dispatch)

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed six bills the Legislature passed during this week’s special session — including a resolution that bans government officers from complying with a Title IX update that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.

Lawmakers voted along party lines Wednesday to approve two resolutions — HCR301 and HJR301 — declaring they wouldn’t follow the federal directive that extends Title IX protections to transgender students and would allow them to participate on sports teams and use bathrooms and facilities of the gender they identify with.

With the signature, Utah is putting into action the recently enacted Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, which allows the state to not comply with federal policies in cases lawmakers consider “overreach.”

During the debate, lawmakers said the new Title IX rules, set to become effective in August, are in conflict with state laws that restrict transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with. Also with HB11, which bans transgender students from joining sports teams of their gender identity, among other harassment and abortion policies.

Back in 2022, Cox had vetoed HB11, citing “fundamental flaws” and criticizing a last-hour change that allowed a complete ban of transgender high school and middle school students in the sports teams of the gender they align with.

“I must admit, I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion,” Cox said in a 2022 letter to the Legislature’s leadership. “I also try to get proximate and I am learning so much from our transgender community. They are great kids who face enormous struggles.”

However, the Legislature overrode that veto.

Cox didn’t immediately comment on why he signed the resolutions Friday.

This January, Cox quickly signed HB257, which restricts transgender people from accessing bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity in government-owned facilities, and issued a one-line statement saying “we want public facilities that are safe and accommodating for everyone and this bill increases privacy protections for all.”

Rep. Kera Birkland, R-Morgan, who sponsored HCR301, the resolution to disregard the new Title IX policies — apart from HB11 and HB257 — said on her X account that she hopes the signature leads other states to take similar measures.

“Hopefully this all gets us one step closer to congressional action that protects and preserves women’s sports,” Birkeland wrote.

Because of the resolution and the Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, the order to not comply with the federal law extends to K-12 schools and higher education, she explained.

“Utah will follow state law and not an unconstitutional rule from unelected bureaucrats under the Biden Administration,” she added in her post.

HJR301, a joint resolution with the same goal as HCR301, didn’t need Cox’s signature.

Apart from those items, Cox signed an update easing the terms of a controversial bill that would keep the Intermountain Power Plant’s coal generators running past its planned retirement date, an agreement that the Intermountain Power Agency said it wouldn’t oppose.

The governor also signed amendments to the Utah code related to the participation of exchange students in the statewide online education program and other actions “countering federal overreach on public lands,” according to the session’s proclamation, among other changes.

Utah News Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Utah News Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor McKenzie Romero for questions: info@utahnewsdispatch.com. Follow Utah News Dispatch on Facebook and X.

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