Two vital laws signed by Gov. Spencer Cox  

Reading Time: 2 minutes On Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, Gov. Spencer Cox signed two bills into law. H.B. 261 and H.B. 257 will limit diversity training, hiring and inclusion programs and modify restroom access based on biological sex.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Two controversial bills were signed by Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.  

The first signed into law, H.B. 261, will drastically limit diversity, equity and inclusion programs throughout the state. Utah has become the latest state to place bans on such programs.  

The new law will bar public institutions from having offices specifically designated to promote diversity. Colleges, universities, K-12 schools and government offices will have to remove words like “diversity,” “equity” and “inclusion” from their program names, as well as make any opportunities for individuals of a specific race or gender available to all. It also restricts employers from asking applicants about their views on DEI during the hiring process.  

The bill was signed at the same time as another, H.B. 257, which prohibits transgender Utahns from accessing any restroom “open to the general public,” unless the person can provide documentation saying they have undergone a “primary sex characteristic surgical procedure” or changed their birth certificate. If a transgender person uses a public bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, they risk charges of trespassing.  

“We’ve been concerned about some DEI programs and policies, particularly with hiring practices, and this bill offers a balanced solution,” Cox issued in his statement on Jan. 30. “Instead, this funding will be repurposed to help all Utah students succeed regardless of their background.” 

The bill had been passed with unanimous support from Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate and firm disapproval from all Democratic representatives. In response to the bill being signed, Senate Democrats issued a statement saying the bill would “[erase] the progress we have made in building a more inclusive society.”  

UVU’s response to the signing was emailed out to the campus community from Provost Wayne Vaught and Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Rasha Qudisat. “UVU’s Office of General Counsel and other campus leaders are studying the bill and collaborating with the Utah System of Higher Education to understand precisely what the bill’s language means and what changes UVU will need to make to comply with the new law. We will share that information with you as it becomes available.” 

“One thing that won’t change is our mission as an open-admissions university to help all students succeed. Some of our programs and initiatives may have to be adjusted, but our commitment to helping individuals transform their lives through education is resolute.” 

In a recent UVUSA meeting, Marissa King, director of student leadership, addressed the council: “[The legislators] have to mandate the language that is triggering for people in power to make these decisions. So, you just have to navigate the language, if you are advocating for inclusivity there are other ways that you can say that can protect you but still get the point across of what you’re trying to accomplish.”  

The Review will continue to update as more information arises.