Jun 1, 2022 - News

Two Utah families sue over state's transgender athlete ban

Illustration of the transgender symbol as a sport court.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Two Utah families filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging a controversial state law, HB11, passed this year that bans transgender girls from competing in girls' school sports.

Why it matters: The legal challenge alleges that the law "stigmatizes and discriminates" against transgender girls and "denies them equal educational opportunities, and subjects them to serious adverse effects on their physical and mental health."

Details: The lawsuit was brought on by the families of two transgender girls, ages 13 and 16, who will be attending school in the Granite School District this fall.

What they're saying: "My last season playing volleyball was one of the best times of my life. I loved my teammates, felt part of something bigger than myself, and finally had a way to socialize with friends after being cooped up during the pandemic," Jenny Roe, 16, a transgender athlete using a pseudonym, said in a press release.

  • "This law devastated me. I just want to play on a team like any other kid," she said.
  • Roe, who will be a high school senior next semester, plans to compete on her school's varsity team in August.
  • Eighth grader Jane Noe, 13, also using a pseudonym, plans to compete on her future high school's varsity swim team in August 2023.

The other side: In a statement released Tuesday night, state Sen. Curtis Bramble (R-Provo) who sponsored HB11, said the law was meant to "preserve women's sports and protect future athletic opportunities."

  • The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan), told Axios: "The lawsuit filed today is not surprising, as such actions have been threatened since the beginning."
  • She echoed Bramble saying her goal "has always been to protect girls sports and female athletes across the state."

Flashback: The state lawmakers behind HB11 initially sought to create a commission that would evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether a transgender athlete could compete in school sports matching their gender identity.

  • But during the final hours of the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers introduced an amended version of the bill that instilled an outright ban.
  • Gov. Spencer Cox, who used to serve on the state's teen suicide task force, quickly vetoed the bill and questioned its legality.
  • Republicans responded by overriding his veto.

The certainty of a lawsuit prompted the state legislature to pass another bill that would compensate the Utah High School Activities Association for potential legal costs.

What's next: The law is set to take effect July 1.

  • Yes, but: If HB11 is deemed unconstitutional in court, it will trigger the previously proposed commission to be established.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to show Jane Noe is also a pseudonym.

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