Aug 22, 2022 - Politics

Utah commission determining which trans athletes can play school sports to take effect

Illustration of a soccer ball with the patches colored in light pink and blue, similar to the transgender flag.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A Utah commission that will determine whether transgender girls can compete in school sports matching their gender identity will soon go into effect, Utah Senate leaders announced Friday.

Driving the news: The commission was triggered Friday after a Utah judge temporarily blocked HB11, a controversial law that bans transgender athletes from competing in girls' school sports.

Context: The ruling was in response to a lawsuit that the families of three transgender student-athletes filed. They say the ban harmed and discriminated against their children.

Yes, but: Judge Keith Kelly wrote his ruling would only "allow [trans athletes] to compete only upon the commission’s determination that their being able to compete is fair under all of the circumstances."

Details: The majority of the School Activity Eligibility Commission will consist of seven members appointed by Republican state leaders Gov. Spencer Cox, Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson.

  • Under the law, the commission will include a mental health professional, a statistician, a physician with gender identity healthcare expertise, an athletic association representative, an athletic trainer who serves collegiate-level student-athletes, a high school coach and a sports physiologist.
  • Commissioners will be tasked with evaluating student-athletes' physical characteristics, like their weight and height, to determine if they can compete in gender-specific sports teams.

What they're saying: “The commission makes it possible to preserve women’s sports while making evidence-based decisions on a case-by-case basis," Sen. Curt Bramble, the Provo Republican who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The other side: While the plaintiffs and LGBTQ rights organizations celebrated Kelly's temporary injunction, others have critiqued the commission for being invasive.

  • "While parts of H.B. 11 have been mitigated, the injunction fails to shield transgender girls by allowing a commission to make a determination whether or not a transgender girl may play," the Utah Pride Center said in a statement.
  • Equality Utah leaders Troy Williams and Marina Lowe also said in a statement they were "watching closely as the state pivots to HB11's commission to determine eligibility."

What's next: Commissioners will be announced in the coming days.

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