Families in Utah sue over ban on transgender sports

Two Utah families this week filed a lawsuit against the state over a law that bans transgender girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

The lawsuit, filed in Third Judicial District Court for Salt Lake County, was filed on behalf of a 16-year-old who wants to play on her school’s girls’ volleyball team and a 13-year-old who wants to play on her school’s girls’ swim team.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA), an organization that governs school athletics in the state, the Granite School District and its Superintendent Rich Nye.

The girls’ families say state law “stigmatizes and discriminates against” the girls, “denies them equal opportunities” and “exposes them to severe impairments to their physical and mental health.” The lawsuit demands that the court find the law unconstitutional and prevent its enactment.

The Republican-controlled Utah legislature in March overruled Gov. Spencer Cox’s (R) veto of the law barring transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. Cox said he vetoed the bill because in Utah only four transgender children were involved in school sports and only one was a transgender girl who played on a girls’ team.

Still, lawmakers chose to override Cox’s veto, with the bill’s sponsor claiming that the “integrity of women’s sport” must remain intact.

The new lawsuit says Utah’s ban “is based on unfounded stereotypes, fears and misconceptions about girls who are transgender” and “is not supported by any medical or scientific evidence.”

The 16-year-old volleyball player in the lawsuit, named Jenny Roe, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria when she was 12 and the 13-year-old swimmer, named Jane Noe, was diagnosed with it when she was about 8 years old.

“My final season in volleyball was one of the best times of my life,” Jenny said in a statement accompanying the suit. “I loved my teammates, felt a part of something bigger than myself and finally had a way to connect with friends after being locked down during the pandemic.”

“This law has devastated me. I just want to play on a team like any other kid.”

The bill is the latest attempt by a GOP-controlled state legislature to ban transgender girls from playing on school athletic teams that match their gender identity. A number of states, including Florida, Alabama and Georgia, passed legislation earlier this year banning transgender women from participating in women’s sports.

The Utah law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

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