SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 31, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — A lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on transgender athletes competing in girls sports was filed Tuesday by two Utah families.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 16-year-old high school junior who wants to play volleyball her senior year and a 13-year-old swimmer who wants to compete in public school athletics, court documents state.
The Utah High School Activities Association, Granite School District, and Superintendent Rich Nye are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court.
“My last season playing volleyball was one of the best times of my life,” the 16-year-old stated in a news release from the ACLU of Utah, using the pseudonym Jenny Roe. “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.
“This law devastated me. I just want to play on a team like any other kid,” she said.
The lawsuit challenges House Bill 11, which prohibits “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students,” regardless of their gender identity. It also defines a person’s sex as “the biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”
HB11 passed 16-13 in the Senate and 46-29 in the House on March 4 — the final night of the 45-day legislative session.
Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the bill on March 22, saying the legislation had “fundamental flaws and should be reconsidered.” The Utah Legislature met in a special session on March 25 to override the veto. Under HB11, the ban takes effect July 1.
HB11 sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, issued a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit, saying the legislation was intended to “preserve women’s sports and protect future athletic opportunities.”
“All kids deserve fair opportunities; however, we must acknowledge the fact that biological boys and girls are built differently,” Bramble said. “HB11 doesn’t prevent athletes from competing as they can still compete against their same biological gender.”
The transgender girls and their families are being represented by the ACLU of Utah, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.
“This law bans transgender girls from competing with other girls in every sport, at every grade level, and regardless of each girl’s individual circumstances,” said Christine Durham, former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and senior of counsel at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati. “It cannot survive constitutional scrutiny and it endangers transgender children.”
Jenny’s mother said HB11 “feels like an attack on our family.”
“Parents want their kids to be happy and to be surrounded by people who love and nurture them,” she said. “This law does the opposite: It tells my daughter that she doesn’t belong and that she is unworthy of having the same opportunities as other students at her school.”
The mother of the 13-year-old swimmer calls the Utah Legislature’s action “deeply unsettling.”
“As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy,” she said. “My husband and I love Utah and our children have benefited from living here. This law changes all of that and we are having serious conversations, for the first time, about whether we can stay here. It is deeply unsettling that the state would want to strip our child of the love and support she has received from her teammates, coaches and entire sports community.”
Prior to the HB11, the UHSAA had guidelines governing participation of transgender students in school sports. Of the 75,000 students who play high school sports in Utah, only four are transgender and only one played on a girls team, according to the UHSAA.