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ACLU of Utah Files Lawsuit Against State Ban on Transgender Girls in Sports

— May 31, 2022

The A.C.L.U. and its co-counsel claim that Utah is violating provisions of the state constitution by singling out transgender high school girls for unfavorable treatment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has filed a lawsuit against the state’s ban on transgender athletes in high school girls sports.

According to The Deseret, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the families of two transgender girls who attend public schools—a 16-year-old volleyball player and a 13-year-old swimmer. The plaintiffs filed their complaints anonymously to “protect their children.”

ABC4 notes that the families are jointly represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Wilson Sonsini Goodirch & Rosati law firm.

Christine Durham, the former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and current senior counsel at Wilson Sonsini, told ABC4 that Utah’s transgender legislation cannot survive in its current form.

“This law bans transgender girls from competing with girls in every sport, at every grade level, and regardless of each girl’s individual circumstances,” Durham said. “It cannot survive constitutional scrutiny and it endangers transgender children.”

Trans rights = civil rights; image by Women's eNews, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.
Trans rights = civil rights; image by Women’s eNews, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

Collectively, the plaintiffs allege that Utah’s law violates provisions of the state constitution by singling out transgender girls for unfavorable treatment.

Utah state Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-District 53), who sponsored the controversial bill, said she is not surprised by the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit filed today is not surprising, as such actions have been threatened since the beginning,” Birkeland said in a statement. “My goal has always been to protect girls sports and female athletes across the state and I hope the courts will recognize that and uphold the legislation.”

State Sens. Curt Bramble and Dan McCay, both Republicans, released their own statements, saying that—while they do not intend to unilaterally exclude transgender girls from high school sports—the law is written to simply recognize that transgender women have a physiological advantage over biological women.

“All kids deserve fair opportunities; however, we must acknowledge the fact that biological boys and girls are built differently,” Bramble said. “H.B. 11 doesn’t prevent athletes from competing as they can still compete against their same biological gender. The intention of H.B. 11 is to preserve women’s sports and protect future athletic opportunities. If a court allows biological males to compete in female sports, H.B. 11 puts Utah ahead of the curve by creating an unbiased, data-driven commission, continuing to protect female athletes.”

“H.B. 11 is trying to protect two things: safety and the integrity of competition,” McCay added. “It is our responsibility as lawmakers to pass legislation that ensures women still have a place in their sport. H.B. 11 does just that. At times, litigation is part of the process, and we will work within the legal system to get answers. H.B. 11 also creates a commission if a ban is put on hold that will help foster a safe and fair environment for all athletes.”

The Deseret notes that Utah’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, initially vetoed H.B. 11 and the transgender sports ban.

However, the state’s Republican-dominated legislature overturned the veto, allowing the bill to take effect this coming spring.


Utah families file lawsuit on transgender sports ban

Utah families file lawsuit with ACLU against transgender student athlete ban

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