Families with two teenagers in Utah are complaining about the state’s ban on transgender athletes in school sports

The families of two transgender girls filed a civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday, challenging a controversial Utah law that would ban young transgender athletes from participating in school sports that match their gender identity — a measure that felt “like an attack on our family.” feels,” a mother of one of the girls said.

The ban goes into effect July 1 under HB11, a bill that Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed, calling it “fundamentally flawed,” but that the Utah Legislature finally overturned in March. The lawsuit argues that the ban causes irreparable harm to young athletes and is not supported by any medical or scientific evidence.

“This law prohibits transgender girls from competing with other girls in any sport, at any grade level, and regardless of each girl’s individual circumstances,” said attorney Christine Durham, who represents the families. “It fails to stand up to constitutional scrutiny and puts transgender children at risk.”

The Utah ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are also representing the families in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in 3rd District Court against the Utah High School Activities Association, the Granite School District and its Superintendent Rich Nye.

The complaint alleges that the ban stigmatizes and discriminates against the girls for being transgender and denies them an equal opportunity to participate in school sports. It also claims that the ban “exposes them to serious adverse effects on their physical and mental health.”

The filing asks the court to declare the ban unconstitutional and invalid.

“This law has devastated me”

The two plaintiffs – identified only as Jenny Roe, 16, and Jane Noe, 13 – are both students in the Granite School District. The 16-year-old plans to compete in girls’ college volleyball starting in August, and the 13-year-old plans to compete on the high school girls’ swim team starting in August 2023, the filing said.

“This law has devastated me,” the 16-year-old said in a statement. “I just want to play on a team like any other kid.”

HB11 was passed on the final day of the 2022 legislature after undergoing major changes in the closing hours of the session. MP Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, had proposed a commission that would decide on a case-by-case basis whether transgender athletes could participate, but Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, added an amendment that justified the outright ban.

After it passed, Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the bill — but the Legislature met in special session and overrode his veto.

“HB11 seeks to protect two things: security and the integrity of the competition,” McCay said in a statement Tuesday. “It is our responsibility as legislators to pass legislation that ensures women continue to have a place in their sport. HB11 does exactly that. Sometimes litigation is part of the process and we will work together within the legal system to get answers.”

McKay added that a commission will be established if the ban is suspended, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said in his own statement that HB11 “takes Utah a step ahead by creating an unbiased, data-driven commission.” Keep protecting athletes.”

“All children deserve fair opportunities… The intent of HB11 is to preserve women’s sport and protect future sporting opportunities,” Bramble said.

Cox’s office declined to comment Tuesday night, citing the pending litigation. The Granite School District declined to comment Wednesday morning.

State lawmakers defend ban

The Utah High Schools and Activities Association and school districts are protected from lawsuits in response to the law. After the legislature overrode the veto, the legislature called a separate special session called by the governor to make changes to HB11, during which the legislature passed legislation to ban the Utah High School Activities Association and school districts from costly to indemnify lawsuits.

Under the ban, transgender girls are not allowed to compete with a team under their preferred gender. You can take part in school sports, but only during training. No athlete in the lawsuit wants to compete on a girls’ team unless she can compete in games, the filing said.

The law is part of a conservative crusade that has gripped the country. Utah is at least the 11th state – all controlled by GOP leaders – to have imposed a ban on transgender girls participating in interscholastic sports.

State lawmakers here argued transgender girls are bigger, faster, and stronger, and are crowding out other girls on teams while claiming new records. Birkeland framed the effort as a way to “preserve the integrity of women’s sport”.

However, Tuesday’s lawsuit alleges that the ban undermines fairness in sport rather than promotes it.

Ban ‘tells my daughter she doesn’t belong’

The 16-year-old plaintiff was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at age 12, the complaint says, and has lived as a girl ever since. Since she started receiving anti-puberty drugs at age 13, she never got into male puberty and plans to start hormone therapy next year.

Volleyball motivates her to do well in school, the lawsuit says. In 2021, she socialized more, got better grades, and felt happier. “My final season in volleyball was one of the best times of my life,” she said in a press release. “I loved my teammates and felt part of something bigger than myself.”

According to the complaint, she qualified under guidelines set by the UHSAA to play on the girls’ volleyball team, which approved her to play after her parents produced a letter from her medical supervisor. The 16-year-old said she had been threatened by another middle school student because she was transgender and she feared further violence, discrimination and harassment as a result of the ban.

“Parents want their children to be happy and surrounded by people who love and care for them,” the girl’s mother said in a statement. “This law does the opposite – it tells my daughter that she doesn’t belong and that she doesn’t deserve the same opportunities as other students at her school.”

According to the complaint, the 13-year-old plaintiff’s story is similar. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at age 8 and was on drugs that block puberty at 12. She plans to start hormone therapy when doctors recommend it.

The younger plaintiff will be an eighth grader next school year and plans to compete on the high school girls’ swim team beginning in August 2023. and loves being part of the team.”

The girl’s mother said in a statement: “As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy. … It is deeply troubling that the state wants to take away the love and support our child has received from his teammates, coaches and the entire sports community.”

She added in the statement that she and her husband are “for the first time having serious talks about whether we can stay here.”

As of early Wednesday, no defendant had filed a formal response to the complaint. Families with two teenagers in Utah are complaining about the state’s ban on transgender athletes in school sports

Joel McCord

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