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Park City High School students question Gov. Spencer Cox on trans, book banning issues

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox visited Park City High School in April, where he was asked about censoring books in school libraries and gender-affirming care for minors as he tours the state, advocating for balance amid the ongoing “culture war” in America.

Halfway through his first term, the Republican fielded questions from five students selected to represent various school groups.

Three of the students were among numerous high schoolers who proudly wore rainbow armbands as a symbol of their support for the LGBTQ+ community. This act of solidarity came in response to Governor Cox’s signing of Senate Bill 16 earlier in January, a controversial law that prohibits minors from accessing gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy. Several students also raised LGBTQ+ flags while the governor delivered his speech.

During the Q&A session, Chloe Taurel directed a question to Cox regarding S.B. 16, asking about the measures he took to include the views of transgender youth in Utah before signing the bill into law. Taurel emphasized the significance of involving and amplifying the voices of young individuals in the realm of politics, even prior to reaching voting age.

Amidst the cheers from the audience, Cox, who had delivered a speech prior to the student question-and-answer session highlighting the value of engaging in open-minded discussions with individuals holding diverse opinions, commended the senior for her respectful question.

Cox said that, prior to the passage of the bill, he organized a meeting bringing together conservative state leaders, transgender youth, and advocates from Equality Utah. The purpose was to facilitate a dialogue surrounding the experiences of transgender individuals and their access to gender-affirming healthcare. As a result of these discussions, certain modifications were made to the legislation.

Cox said that, rather than a complete ban, the law is now a “pause” until more research can be conducted on the long-term effects of gender-affirming care such as surgery, and hormone therapy.

Student Jackalyn Vazquez raised concerns about Utah’s “sensitive materials” law in schools which defines sensitive materials as content that includes pornography or obscenity. Vazquez pointed out that an escalating number of books have been challenged under this law across the state, including in the Park City School District. Many of these challenged works feature LGBTQ+ and minority characters or are written by authors who belong to these communities.

Cox answered that the state is trying to maintain a balance to ensure schools are providing age-appropriate materials.

“We need to make sure that their voices are represented. I always tell people, look, in any culture war issue, in any controversial issue, always look for the third way. There’s always a third way out there,” he said. “That third way happens when people who disagree are able to sit down and look for that common ground.”

The governor’s overarching message was one of empowerment. Despite some Park City students expressing feelings of apathy and uncertainty about the state of the country, Cox conveyed his belief that their generation possesses the capability to address and solve the world’s challenges.

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