Utah is the latest state in the country to pass a bill banning diversity training, hiring, and inclusion programs at universities and in state government.
After passing the Utah House and Senate, the bill now heads to the state’s Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican expected to sign it into law.
According to the Associated Press, Cox, entering the last year of his first term as governor, has “shifted right on diversity, equity and inclusion.” He vetoed a ban on transgender students playing in girls’ sports in 2022 (which the legislature overrode). However, in 2023, Cox signed a bill regulating discussion of race and religion in public schools.
“I can assure you, after this legislative session, it will not be happening in the state of Utah, these diversity statements that you have to sign to get hired,” Cox said in December.
Such initiatives are “awful, bordering on evil,” he added.
University and government offices dedicated to promoting diversity would not be allowed under the Utah bill, nor could they require employees to submit diversity commitment statements.
“It ensures academic freedom on university campuses where all voices will be heard,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Republican Keith Grover, said.
Six Democrats voted against the measure. Among them was Sen. Luz Escamilla, “who cited statistics showing much lower college enrollment rates for Native Americans, Hispanics, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders than for whites,” the AP reports.
“Our numbers don’t match our actual demographics,” Escamilla said. “If Utah’s enrollment is not even close to where we need to be, we’re failing and this is not the solution.”
The GOP-led states of Florida and Texas enacted broad laws last year restricting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education. Since then, several other states have followed suit.
An Associated Press analysis using bill-tracking software Plural found that Republicans have proposed about three dozen bills this year in 17 states that “would restrict or require public disclosure of DEI initiatives.”
Democrats, on the other hand, have filed at least 20 bills in nine states that would require or promote DEI.