The Utah House of Representatives has passed a bill that prohibits transgender girls from participating in junior high and high school sports.
The Utah House voted 50-23 in support of House Bill 302, which was sponsored by Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan).
"Women’s sports matter in Utah. They matter to me and they matter to every parent of young girls and they matter to every athlete out there trying their best," she said as she presented her bill on the House floor, according to the Salt Lake City Fox affiliate.
The bill designates school sports by gender and specifically prohibits a student of the "male sex" from participating in a sport designated for female students. The bill has been amended to carve out college athletics and offer some indemnification to school districts in the event of a lawsuit.
"Co-ed sports are harmful to our female athletes," Berkeland said, arguing that her bill is about fairness in athletics.
The bill saw staunch opposition from House Democrats and LGBTQ rights groups.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D-Holladay) said the bill harms vulnerable children.
"Why does anybody want to be on a team? Because they want to feel included. They want to feel like they belong," she said.
Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost (D-Salt Lake City) called the bill “cruel, heavy-handed” and “lazy policy."
The bill will now move to the Utah State Senate.
Transgender Education Advocates of Utah criticized the bill and urged its defeat.
"This is not academic, and openly debating the humanity of children has consequences. Transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming youth already face discrimination and bullying at nearly every level and are at greater risk to drop out of school or self-harm," Dr. Candice Metzler, the group's executive director, said.
"This bill politicizes a non-issue by misconstruing basic facts: There are no trans youth competing in UHSAA events at any level, and a current policy exists. The NCAA and Olympic-level sport have inclusive policies in place, and there is simply no evidence whatsoever that transgender athletes dominate sport at either level."