GOP governor says June is about understanding & accepting homophobes

Spencer Cox of Utah answers a question during a discussion about how our society can learn to disagree in a way that allows us to find solutions on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.
Spencer Cox of Utah answers a question during a discussion about how our society can learn to disagree in a way that allows us to find solutions on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Photo: Logan Newell/The Coloradoan / USA TODAY NETWORK

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) declared June the “Month of Bridge Building” instead of saying that it’s Pride Month, and he’s facing criticism for shifting the focus from LGBTQ+ awareness and Pride to the nonexistent oppression of anti-LGBTQ+ people.

Cox issued a declaration for the Month of Bridge Building this past Saturday, June 1. His declaration said that LGBTQ Utahns “have experienced marginalization and isolation as a result of their differences.”

In the next paragraph, his declaration says that “those who do not identify with, celebrate or support Pride celebrations… nevertheless share the experience of being marginalized.” His declaration goes on to say, “In Utah, we love our children and we hope to live in such a way that our children will forever love us even if at times we may disagree over deeply-held personal views or beliefs.”

Cox has a mixed record on LGBTQ+ equality. In 2021, he refused to sign a bill banning trans girls and women from participating in school sports, a bill that he again vetoed in 2022. Not only did he veto the bill, he got teared up as he explained how meeting transgender kids “changes your heart in important ways.” But the state legislature overrode his veto that year and passed the sports ban.

In 2023, though, Cox signed a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth, despite every medical association in the United States supporting it.

In 2024, Cox signed a bill to impose criminal penalties and possible jail time on transgender people for using public restrooms.

He also issued straightforward Pride Month declarations in 2021 and 2022. But in 2023, he got criticized by conservatives for issuing a Pride Month declaration, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, who called it “disgraceful” and “disgusting.” On the left, some criticized his Pride Month declaration for coming just after he signed the gender-affirming care ban.

He considered himself “an ally to the LGBTQ community” in a 2023 interview, saying, “We have great relationships, I am very close with the advocates in our state.”

He’s now facing a serious primary challenger from the right in state Rep. Phil Lyman as he runs for governor again. This past April, Cox was booed when he spoke at the Republican State Nominating Convention. Delegates at the convention overwhelmingly supported Lymen.

“Maybe you’re booing me because you hate that I signed the largest tax cut in Utah history,” Cox said. “Maybe you hate that I signed constitutional carry into law. Maybe you hate that we ended CRT, DEI, and ESG. Or maybe you hate that I don’t hate enough.”

Cox was attacked for suggesting that he was getting booed because the state Republican delegates were hateful, even though his veto of the sports ban in 2022 has been one of Lyman’s main criticisms of him.

LGBTQ+ advocates, though, criticized Cox’s attempt to draw an equivalence between LGBTQ+ people and those who hate LGBTQ+ people in his “Month of Building Bridges” declaration.

“June is Pride Month — a time when we celebrate our identities, our history, and our resilience,” Utah Pride Center executive director Chad Call said. “Pride is not simply about building bridges; it is about recognizing and honoring the strength and unity of a marginalized community that has endured and continues to endure significant challenges.”

The Utah House of Representatives’ Democratic Caucus issued its own Pride Month official citation, which centered LGBTQ+ people and discussed the “ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ in the United States and in Utah, such as discrimination, marginalization, and violence.”

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