Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah vetoed a transgender-athlete bill on Tuesday that would have barred young transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports.
Cox is the second Republican governor in two days to reject transgender-ban legislation; Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a similar statewide ban Monday, according to NBC News.
Cox made an emotional plea for compassion toward transgender youth Tuesday in explaining his decision to veto the bill.
In a letter to the state's Senate president and House speaker, Cox said he was moved by data showing that among 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, with just one involved in girls sports.
"Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day," he wrote. "Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few."
Cox also cited research on how a sense of belonging could reduce suicide rates among transgender youth, adding that while he struggled to understand "conflicting" science, he sought to employ kindness.
"I don't understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly," Cox wrote.
“For that reason, as much as any other, I have taken this action in the hope that we can continue to work together and find a better way," he added. "If a veto override occurs, I hope we can work to find ways to show these four kids that we love them and they have a place in our state."
NBC News reported that eleven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia — have implemented bans targeting transgender athletes.