Statement regarding House Bill 302

Full statement from Kate Charipar, associate athletics director for compliance, to the Utah State Senate Health and Human Services Committee regarding House Bill 302 on Feb. 24, 2021.

My name is Kate Charipar and I am the Associate Athletics Director for Compliance at the University of Utah and I am speaking today on behalf of the University of Utah, Utah State University, Salt Lake Community College, and Westminster College.

Although collegiate sports have been removed from the bill for this legislative session, HB 302 still endangers NCAA championship opportunities, challenges Title IX law, and does not acknowledge the competitive equity guardrails currently in place.

First, this bill jeopardizes the opportunity to host NCAA championships in the state of Utah. As a core value, the NCAA and our institutions are committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity. The NCAA supports the varying interests of their member schools: public, private, secular, and faith-based. The NCAA quote “has taken steps to ensure its championship environment is consistent with its values.” We first saw the NCAA act in moving seven championship events from North Carolina after their governor signed a transgender bill that was not consistent with NCAA values. As a result, prohibiting transgender females from participating in sports, at any level, risks the relocation of upcoming NCAA events, such as cross country and gymnastics championships at Utah State, the 2024 March Madness tournament and 2025 Gymnastics Regionals hosted by Utah, as well as several other proposals to host athletic events. North Carolina’s bill is similar to HB 302 in that they both violate the NCAA’s core values, so it is immaterial whether the bill excludes higher education, we can expect the same result: a relocation of NCAA championships away from the State of Utah.

Second, Title IX is a federal civil rights law that applies to both k-12 and college institutions. It requires that no person be excluded from participation in, or subjected to discrimination under, any education program on the basis of sex, which includes gender identity. Further, Department of Education, the entity that enforces Title IX, explicitly requires that transgender participants be counted consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the sex indicated on their identification records. For these reasons, the adoption of HB 302 will find its way to the courts, like similar laws in Idaho and Montana, and in the meantime, Utah schools and the state will suffer both financially and competitively.

Finally, I recognize that supporters of this bill value competitive equity. Fortunately, so do the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee. Less than one percent of adults and youth identify as transgender and only six percent of high school athletes go on to participate in NCAA sports. Less than half of those athletes are women. Beyond that only a select few go onto compete professionally or at the Olympic level. In fact, there have not been any known transgender athletes who have competed in the Olympics since 2003. Out of the 11,000 athletes anticipated to compete in Tokyo this summer, only three transgender women might qualify to be among them. Despite these incredibly low numbers, sports governing bodies like the NCAA and IOC have strict guidelines in place to ensure fairness in sport.

This is a nuanced and complex issue. If HB 302, in any of its forms, is adopted, it will carry damaging consequences to athletes, educational institutions, and the State of Utah.

Resources:

NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes handbook