Utah Gov. Cox Signs Anti-DEI Bill into Law, Ending Employment Discrimination

Evan Poellinger | February 1, 2024
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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed a bill into law on Tuesday which would roll back governmental and university Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in the state.

The bill, HB261, would prohibit the use of DEI-related terminology in programs at public schools, colleges and universities, and state government agencies, as well as “open any specific race- or gender-based efforts to all individuals.”

The new law will also prohibit employers from asking questions about a prospective hire’s opinion on DEI ideology. Gov. Cox previously referred to these varieties of diversity statements as “awful, bordering on evil,” characterizing it as “forcing people into a political framework before they can even apply for a job with the state.”

The move sets a new tone for Gov. Cox, who previously appeared to express favorability toward some of the principles related to DEI. At the start of his term in January 2021, Cox signed the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The compact included various directives toward achieving “racial equity,” including the declaration that “unraveling centuries of internalized and systemic racism requires bold anti-racist actions and policies right now.”

The compact concluded by declaring Utah’s newfound focus on racial justice that, “our commitment will not just be a passing moment, but a legacy movement of social, racial and economic justice.” For Cox, therefore, this newfound opposition to the DEI ideology that he once affixed his signature in support of represents a remarkable about-face.

Cox and the state of Utah have now joined the ranks of a number of red states and conservative organizations that are taking action to oppose DEI policies and ideology.

The Wisconsin State legislature forced the University of Wisconsin to restrict DEI policies on campus in exchange for allowing the release of funds for faculty and staff raises. Other states, such as Oklahoma, have taken steps to ensure that materials which propagate DEI and adjacent racially-oriented left-wing ideology are prevented from use in public schools. Meanwhile, conservative organizations, such as the American Alliance for Equal Rights, have begun placing pressure on companies like law firms which engage in DEI, threatening lawsuits on grounds of discrimination.

Cox’s decision to join the fight against DEI seems to imply that, even among more moderate governors, the problems generated by this racially-incendiary ideological lens are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.