Last March, Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed a bill that excluded transgender girls from competing in school sports. In January, he signed a bill that bans surgeries and medical interventions for transgender minors.

In a live discussion with Washington Post journalists Thursday, he took the opportunity to explain those choices.

Cox started by assuring he wants to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. He added that the topic of sex characteristic reassignment surgery is difficult to discuss.

“I have found that it is virtually impossible to have a rational conversation with people about this,” Cox said. “People’s minds are already made up and in very passionate ways.”

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That’s why the governor looked to other countries for answers, where “the culture wars aren’t blazing” as much as in the U.S. He said he found that in places like Sweden, Finland and the U.K., the lack of research and possibility of long-term harm have led doctors to step back from performing these surgeries on people younger than 18.

“And that’s what we’ve done in the state of Utah. We’re pushing pause, gathering the best science we can before we make a decision on how we’re going to proceed,” Cox said.

Cox also talked about the “possibility of social contagion,” or the idea that societal pressures and mental health issues might be contributing to the growing number of youth who identify as transgender.

“This is very different from 10 years ago and the people that were transitioning at that time,” he said.

Considering Cox’s belief in limited government, reporter Theodoric Meyer questioned why Cox thought government should get involved in children’s and parents’ medical decisions. Cox said the government intervenes with youth all the time.

“It’s very common that we do what we can to protect young people, and that’s what this bill attempts to do,” Cox said.

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Ultimately, Cox said this bill may not be the final say on the matter.

“It’s not a forever prohibition,” he said. “We will revisit this as we collect more data.”

LGBTQ groups have promised to challenge the bill in court, saying medical interventions often referred to as gender-affirming treatment are essential to the health of transgender youth.

During the livestream, Cox also discussed his reaction to Biden’s State of the Union address, Utah’s response to the Great Salt Lake crisis, and the toxicity of America’s political climate.

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