Transgender girls in Utah will be allowed to participate in girls’ sports as the school year begins after a judge on Friday reversed a previously implemented ban.
Utah state Judge Keith Kelly said in the ruling that attorneys representing the families of three transgender student-athletes showed they have suffered significant distress by “singling them out for unfavorable treatment as transgender girls.“
The transgender girls and the parents filed the lawsuit last May, arguing that the ban violates the Utah Constitution’s guarantees of equal rights and due process.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said, “The pressure, the strain this was putting them under was so enormous. It is just a huge relief to have that weight lifted.“
He added, “It creates such a negative atmosphere based on stereotypes about girls and how they should look. It is really is harmful to all the kids in the state.“
The ban was passed by Republicans earlier this year. However, the reversal now gives transgender athletes a path to competing against girls. The decision was made just ahead of the school year resuming in the state.
The ruling follows a revelation this week by the Utah High School Activities Association that it secretly investigated a female athlete without informing her or her parents. This investigation started after receiving complaints from the parents of two girls she had defeated in a competition questioning whether the girl was transgender.
Instead of an outright ban, transgender girls will be sent before a commission to determine if their participation compromises fairness. This commission will rule on a case-by-case basis whether or not a trans student is allowed to compete against biological girls. The state’s Republican lawmakers created the commission in a law passed earlier this year as a plan B to be implemented in case of an injunction against the law.
Trans girls will be given the opportunity to participate in female sports after a judge reversed a ban pending legal challenges from parents. https://t.co/K51f5YpNuA— HuffPost (@HuffPost) August 19, 2022
The issue of transgender athletes competing based on their gender identity has drawn cultural controversy. This is especially seen in women’s sports, where male athletes who identify as the opposite sex dominate competitions against biological women.
At least 12 Republican-led states, including Utah, have passed laws banning transgender women or girls in sports as they believe it gives them an unfair competitive advantage. States like South Dakota, Idaho, Louisiana, and Florida, have passed laws requiring athletes to compete based on their biological sex.
Under the law in Utah now, the panel will be allowed to ask for and assess the child’s height and weight in deciding whether a transgender girl would have an unfair advantage.
When proposed, the commission was criticized by advocates for trans athletes, who worried they would feel targeted having their bodies measured, and proponents of an outright ban, who argued it didn’t go far enough. Transgender rights advocates counter the rules aren’t just about sports but another way to demean and attack transgender youth.
The commission, set to be convened in the coming weeks, will include a medical data statistician, a physician with experience in gender identity healthcare, and mental health professional. A sports physiologist, a collegiate athletic trainer, a representative of an athletic association, and a rotating member relevant to each case will also be members of this commission.
Legislative leaders added that members of the commission have not yet been appointed but will be in the coming weeks.
Minter said he hopes the commission will act merely as a safety net, the presumption being that transgender girls can play unless there is a prominent issue of competitive fairness.