It would seem that five years spent fawning over Trump, turning a blind eye to his overtures to fascism, and groveling at the feet of his extremist base, have put a few (slightly) more moderate Republican lawmakers in a bind as the Party edges ever closer to authoritarianism.
It’s an ongoing story in a Republican Party that has made Culture War their primary appeal to their base. Anti-Trans legislation is a winner. Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation? Also a winner!
So it was (unfortunately) shocking this week when not one but two Republican governors broke with their party and vetoed egregiously cruel legislation barring trans female athletes from participating in high school sports. Both Utah’s Spencer Cox and Indiana’s Eric Holcomb nixed laws which overwhelmingly passed through their respective state legislatures—in spite of credible threats by both legislatures to override their vetoes. In a piece dealing with the Indiana law published late Monday by The New York Times, Governor Holcomb is quoted as saying:
“The presumption of the policy laid out in H.E.A. 1041 is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further state government intervention.”
“It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive female sports are not currently being met,” the governor added in his letter. “After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Governor Cox of Utah followed suit, penning the following open letter explaining his decision:
Most salient, Cox gives credit to an argument that’s been made over and over again since the Right Wing Propaganda Machine got super determined to force this issue into cultural relevance: it’s an imaginary problem. It’s made up. That, as the AP notes in the story just-linked: “Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. Yet in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.”
In Cox’s letter, he notes that more than 75,000 high school students participate in sports across Utah, and only 4 of them identify as trans, and only one of those is female. He writes, (I think very movingly):
“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. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. 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. 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. 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.”