Aug 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Judge temporarily blocks Utah's transgender athlete ban

Utah's State Capitol building in Salt Lake City.

Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A state judge temporarily blocked Utah's controversial law that bars transgender girls from competing in school sports matching their gender identity on Thursday, saying it "is plainly unfavorable treatment."

Why it matters: The injunction against the law, which went into effect on July 1, arose from a lawsuit from three teenage transgender girls who were prevented from competing in sports under their preferred gender.

  • The law passed Utah's legislature through an override vote after Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the bill in March.
  • Proponents of the law have said it serves to protect women's sports and protect future athletic opportunities, while opponents have argued that it stigmatizes transgender girls and denies them equal educational opportunities.

What they're saying: Judge Keith Kelly granted the hold on the law after finding that it was harming the girls by preventing them from competing and creating a stigma against them.

  • "The ban singles out transgender girls and categorically bars them from competing on girls' sports teams. At the same time, other girls are free to compete. This is plainly unfavorable treatment," Kelly wrote in the injunction.
  • "Thus, Plaintiffs identify and live as girls, interact with others as girls, and are taking medication to prevent them from going through male puberty. But the Ban does not treat them as girls," the judge added.
  • The judge also said the plaintiffs have also shown that the ban likely violates an equal protection clause within the Utah Constitution.

Yes, but: The block is temporary, and the state could again enforce the ban if the challenge is resolved in favor of the defendants.

The big picture: Utah is one of more than a dozen states to enact some sort of ban on transgender kids in school sports.

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