SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Transgender girls in Utah will be allowed to participate in women’s sports once the school year begins after a judge on Friday lifted a ban pending legal challenges from parents.
Instead of an outright ban, transgender girls will now go before a state commission of political appointees, which will determine on a case-by-case basis whether they are eligible to participate. Republican Utah lawmakers created the commission in a law passed earlier this week as a backup plan that would be implemented in the event of an injunction against the law.
Under the terms of the law, the panel will be allowed to request and evaluate the child’s height and weight in making decisions if a transgender girl would have an unfair advantage. The commission, which will meet in the coming weeks, will include a medical data statistician, a physician experienced in gender identity health care, a sports physiologist, mental health professional, collegiate athletic trainer, representative of an athletic association and a rotation. member who is a coach or official in the relevant sport in each case.
The Utah decision marked the court’s latest development in a nationwide debate over how to navigate a flashpoint case.
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At least 12 Republican-led states — including Utah — have passed laws banning transgender women or girls from sports based on the premise that it gives them an unfair competitive advantage. Transgender rights advocates counter that the rules are not just about sports, but another way to humiliate and attack transgender youth. Similar cases are underway in states such as Idaho, West Virginia and Indiana.
Utah’s ban took effect in July after the state’s Republican Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Spencer Cox, also a Republican.
Utah State Judge Keith Kelly said in the ruling that attorneys representing the families of the three transgender student-athletes who filed the lawsuit have shown they suffered significant distress by being “singled out for unfavorable treatment as transgender girls.”
Transgender girls and parents filed suit last May, claiming it violates the Utah Constitution’s guarantees of equal rights and due process.
The decision was exciting news for the girls and their families, said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“The pressure, the strain it was putting on them was so great,” Minter said. “It’s just a huge relief to have lifted that weight.”
Utah state Sen. Stuart Adams, a Republican, said in a statement Friday that the commission will now make decisions in a way “to protect fair and safe competition while preserving the integrity of women’s sports.”
Minter said he hopes the commission makes fair decisions, keeps the process confidential and a good settlement is reached. He hopes the commission will simply act as a safety net, assuming transgender girls can play unless there is a clear issue of competitive fairness.
“How it’s done is very important,” Minter said.
The decision follows a revelation this week by the Utah High School Activities Association that it secretly investigated a female athlete — without telling her or her parents — after receiving complaints from the parents of two girls she beat in competition. asked if the girl was transgender. The girl’s sorority and high school determined she was indeed female after reviewing her school records dating back to kindergarten, sorority spokesman David Spatafore told lawmakers this week. He said the girl and her family were not told of the investigation to spare them embarrassment and “to keep the matter private,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
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Governor Cox said Thursday at his monthly press conference that the parent’s complaint about the girl being investigated had crossed the line.
“My God, we are living in this world where we have become big losers and we are looking for some reason why our child was lost,” he said. He said that he supports justice in sports, but that “raising such accusations are quite disturbing for me”.
Spatafore declined to reveal the student’s grade, school or sport to protect her identity. He said the student and her family were not told about the investigation because it could be offensive to them and that parents would have been contacted “if necessary.”
Spatafore also said the association has reviewed other complaints involving transgender athletes in its efforts to comply with Utah’s law, which took effect in July. Some complaints include “when an athlete doesn’t look feminine enough,” he said. None of the complaints have been verified.
Before the ban, Utah had registered a transgender female athlete competing last year on a high school girls’ team, Spatafore said.