Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox became the latest GOP governor to veto legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting women’s sports with a prohibition on male participation.
“I am not an expert in transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting,” Cox wrote to explain the veto. “When in doubt, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”
The female swimmers who lost in a competition dominated by Lia Thomas last weekend, a transgender athlete who competed in the men’s league for years under the University of Pennsylvania, may take a different view of what constitutes “kindness, mercy and compassion.” The 22-year-old fifth-year senior took home the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship in the 500-yard freestyle Thursday over a slate of female competitors.
Reka Gyorgy, a swimmer at Virginia Tech who came up short in the qualifier for the event, criticized the NCAA’s policy allowing biological males with years of testosterone-enhanced capability to compete in women’s leagues if they merely identify as women.
“It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA,” Gyorgy wrote in an open letter to the collegiate athletic association post on Instagram. “It feels like the final spot was taken from me.”
Cox’s decision to allow men to compete in women’s sports came a day after Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed similar legislation. In his veto letter to lawmakers, Holcomb explained the bill left “too many unanswered questions,” a justification similar to one South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gave last year when she refused to sign a bill protecting women’s sports.
Noem eventually capitulated on the issue nearly a year later, signing a bill to bar male athletes in women’s competition without a mea culpa for her intervening crusade against right-leaning outlets that exposed her dubious reasons for the initial veto. Holcomb is known for favoring big business interests over the interests of Indiana’s majority-Republican voters.
Hours before Cox vetoed the proposal to bar male competition in female leagues, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis officially recognized Thomas’ runner-up in the 500-yard freestyle race, Emma Weyant, as the true champion.