However, these decisions to ignore the conservative wing of the party could be short-lived in the face of a energized GOP base and legislators who want to overrule governors. Arizona legislators voted Thursday to join 11 states that have banned smoking.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed legislation passed in their respective states that would have banned transgender girls participating in gender-designated youth sport.
"Rarely have so many people been subject to so much fear and anger. I don't know what they are going though or why they feel this way. "But I want them live," Cox wrote in a veto letter.
They are at odds with their high-profile counterparts from states like Iowa, Florida, and South Dakota. These governors are politically ambitious and have entered into the debates as LGBTQ Americans become more visible in society and pop music.
Cox and Holcomb believe bans are necessary to address the problem of transgender student athletes in both states, four in Utah and none from Indiana.
Holcomb stated in a veto that Indiana legislators' justification for banning the ban "implies" that the goals of fairness and consistency in female competitive sports are not being met.
He said, "After thorough analysis, I find no evidence supporting either claim even though I support the effort overall."
Last year, the Associated Press reached out to more than twenty states legislators in order to find out if similar youth sports legislation was being considered. It found that it has only been an issue for a handful of the hundreds of thousands teenagers who participate in high school sports.
Utah and Indiana lawmakers are not deterred by the argument that transgender girls may have a physical advantage.
"This isn't about the number. It is not about the number of children. It's about a fundamental belief that all people have -- and that is either you do or not -- that women's sport should be preserved for those who are biologically born as and identify themselves as female," stated Kera Birkeland (a Republican high school basketball coach) of Utah. The ban applies to athletes in kindergarten through 12th grades.
According to legislative leaders, they have whipped the votes necessary to override the state vetoes. They join almost a dozen states in restricting the number of transgender children's teams. The Indiana bill passed with wide support. Legislative leaders will meet at the end May to discuss it . could also override it by simple majority.
Many people point out Lia Thomas, a transgender college swimmer who won an individual title in the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championship. Although she placed 5th and 8th respectively in two other races as well, her win attracted widespread attention from Republican politicians such as Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis issued an official proclamation declaring that the runner up was the "real winner".
Two years ago, there was no law in any state that regulated gender-designated youth sport. Since Idaho legislators passed the first national sports participation law in 2020, the issue has been front-and center in Republican-led statehouses. This law, along with one in West Virginia, is now being blocked by the courts.
Last year, governors in states such as Kansas, Louisiana, and North Dakota vetoed similar legislation due to fear of lawsuits, reprisal from sports associations, or business owners like the NCAA or NBA. Despite the fact that the transgender students were not allowed to use public restrooms in North Carolina, they moved events to North Dakota in 2016.
However, social conservatives have been the ones to face back. Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota was the target of social conservatives. Kristi Noem was under pressure after she vetoed a ban last January. After vetoing a ban last year, she quickly passed it and promoted the legislation through a series TV ads.
Cox in Utah cited in his letter of veto the larger message that the ban sends transgender children, who have high suicide rates. He said that he was aware that the law would be overridden by lawmakers and that signing it into effect would have been more politically expedient.
After flipping many Republicans against the ban, lawmakers feel confident that they will be able to override a veto and will face reelection threats from the left in primary races determined by a smaller number of ultra-conservative party members.
"Gov. Troy Williams, executive director at Equality Utah, stated that Cox fears this could cost him his political career. "The message young people and their parents are getting is that the Legislature is hostile towards their lives."
Holcomb and Cox are also concerned about taxpayer money being used for legal fees. Cox stated, "Let someone else defend this, and then we can respond to whatever happens."
Although LBGTQ supporters and their allies may have gained some ground with governors, most of the party appears "fairly unified" in its anti-transgender stances in the states, according to Jason Pierceson, professor of politics at the University of Illinois in Springfield.
He said, "I would argue that the overrides are more the Republican Party's story than the governor’s vetoes." "There is no political space in Republican Party at the moment for a pro-transgender rights approach."
He said that the push stems back to 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage and a 2020 conservative majority of the high court finding that the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in employment for transgender people.
He said that some conservative activists believe that a federal judiciary with more Trump-appointed judges could allow new legislation to be held up in court.
There are bills in many states that would limit gender-confirming care for transgender teens. Arizona was one of the states to pass a ban on minors undergoing gender-reassignment surgeries. Republican Arizona Governor. Doug Ducey has not yet indicated whether he will sign either bill.
DeSantis signed legislation in this year's third-grade and fourth grades that prohibits instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation. It is known as the "Don't Say Gay” bill.
"At this stage, Gov. Chris Karpowitz of Brigham Young University, a political science professor, said that Cox seemed like an exception on this issue. "This seems like an issue that is provoking fear, anger, and a lot activist energy."