Transgender athlete ban challenged in Utah lawsuit

Jun 1, 2022, 1:39 AM | Updated: 2:47 pm

FILE - A 12 year old transgender swimmer is seen waiting by a pool on February 22, 2021 in Utah. Sh...

FILE - A 12 year old transgender swimmer is seen waiting by a pool on February 22, 2021 in Utah. She and her family spoke to the associated press on the condition of anonymity. Two transgender athletes and their families filed a lawsuit Tuesday, June 1, 2022, to challenge the states new ban on transgender players competing in girls sports. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A ban on transgender athletes playing on girls’ sports teams is being challenged in court in Utah, one of more than a dozen states that have passed similar bans throughout the last two years.

Two anonymous families who sued Tuesday said the ban wrongly keeps their children from playing the sports they love with their friends.

In a lawsuit filed in state court, they argue categorical bans on transgender athletes violate provisions of the state constitution that ensure men and women enjoy equal rights and due process. Similar suits have been filed in states such as Idaho, West Virginia and Indiana.

Utah’s ban is part of a wave of similar bans sweeping statehouses around the country. Supporters say transgender athletes can have a physical advantage and compromise fairness in girls’ sports. Still, there have been almost no cases of potential competitive advantages in K-12 sports in states passing bans, including Utah.

“My last season playing volleyball was one of the best times of my life,” one plaintiff, a 16-year-old high school junior, said in a statement. “I loved my teammates, felt part of something bigger than myself … I just want to play on a team like any other kid.”

For the Utah lawmakers who sponsored the ban, the lawsuit came as little surprise. The threat of a lawsuit was a subject of discussion throughout the legislative process and informed the way the ban was written.

After observing courts strike down or pause similar bans, Republicans passed a two-pronged law that they said at the time would ensure matters of gender in high school sports would be regulated even if courts intervened.

If courts decide Utah cannot legally implement a ban on transgender athletes, the state will fund lawsuits and convene a commission of politically appointed experts to make eligibility decisions about athletes on a case-by-case basis.

Opponents could still challenge the legality of the commission.

On Tuesday, the ban’s proponents said transgender kids can still compete on the teams of their gender assigned at birth.

“The intention of H.B. 11 is to preserve women’s sports and protect future athletic opportunities,” said Republican Sen. Curt Bramble in a statement.

It was passed after state lawmakers overrode a veto from Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, who drew national attention with an emotional plea about how transgender sports bans target kids already at high suicide risk.

The legislation, hastily rewritten in the final hours of the annual session, didn’t originally pass with a veto-proof majority. But several lawmakers changed their votes after hearing from a vocal conservative base that has particular sway during primary season.

As of March, the Utah High School Activities Association knew of only one transgender girl playing in K-12 sports who would be affected by the ban. There have been no allegations of any of the state’s four transgender youth athletes in Utah having competitive advantages.

The other plaintiff in the lawsuit is a 13-year-old transgender swimmer. Her mother said in a statement the family loves the state but is seriously considering moving away for the first time.

“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,” the mother said.

Idaho became the first state to ban transgender athletes from playing on female sports teams in 2020. A federal judge blocked that law in court after an athlete sued; it’s now being considered by an appeals court. Several states followed with similar bans, and West Virginia’s ban was challenged in 2021.

Indiana lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto there earlier this month and it was quickly challenged by the ACLU.


AP writer Sam Metz contributed reporting.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Transgender athlete ban challenged in Utah lawsuit