The judge rejected a former Supreme Court justice’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
On Wednesday, a judge rejected a request by Utah officials to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the state’s recently-enacted ban on transgender youth participating in certain sports.
According to The Associated Press, the ruling comes just before a scheduled hearing where Judge Keith Kelly will assess whether to temporarily suspend the controversial law.
Kelly determined that the three transgender girls who filed the lawsuit have established sufficient legal standing to bring a claim against the state, as they were able to demonstrate that they have been adversely affected by the legislation’s passage.
Thomas Lee, a former Utah Supreme Court justice who was hired by the state to defend the statute, had earlier argued that the girls are merely “concerned bystanders” who are not entitled to file a lawsuit.
The Associated Press notes that the parents of the three girls contend in their lawsuit that Utah’s transgender sports ban wrongfully prevents their children from participating in youth sports, violating provisions of the state constitution that prohibit discrimination and guarantee equal rights and due process.
As LegalReader.com has reported before, the issue of whether transgender youth—especially transgender girls-should be allowed to participate in sports led to a number of Republican-dominated state legislatures passing laws blocking transgender girls from competing in many athletic events and competitions.
Proponents of such laws assert that transgender girls have an unfair physical advantage over biological females.
“Biological girls were not born boys. Transgender girls were. And even if transgender girls have undergone puberty blocking or hormone therapy, they still maintain and develop biological differences that are an advantage on the playing field,” attorneys for the state write in their initial motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Conversely, LGBT advocates say the laws are simply yet another opportunity for conservatives to attack and dehumanize transgender youth.
Shannon Minter, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing the three plaintiff families, said that the state’s arguments neglect the athletics ban’s constitutional and civil rights implications.
“These families are part of this state, and the law protects them, just as it protects other families and kids,” Minter said. “This is an ordinary civil rights case, and we’re arguing the normal kinds of harms that civil rights cases assert.”
Interestingly, ABC4.com notes that the bill faced significant backlash within Utah itself—with the state’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, saying that the statute seemed designed to address what is practically a non-issue.
“If you have not spent time with transgender youth, then I would encourage you to pause on this issue,” Gov. Cox said last year. “We have so many people who are in a very difficult spot right now. And we have very few, if any, transgender girls participating in sports.”