Utah judge puts transgender youth sports ban on hold in win for LGBTQ+ rights

Salt Lake City, Utah - Transgender girls in Utah will be allowed to play on girls' sports teams when classes start this fall after a judge issued an order blocking the enforcement of a controversial statewide trans youth sports ban.

Lawmakers in Utah voted in March to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill banning transgender student athletes from competing in sports aligned with their gender identity.
Lawmakers in Utah voted in March to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill banning transgender student athletes from competing in sports aligned with their gender identity.  © GEORGE FREY / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

HB 11, which barred all transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams, passed both chambers of the Utah legislature in the last hours of the 2022 legislative session. It was vetoed by the state's Republican governor, Spencer Cox, in late March, but his veto was later overruled by the Republican-led legislature.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] of Utah, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the private law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati filed a legal challenge in state court against the legislation, on behalf of the families of three teenage girls arguing that the rules are unconstitutional and discriminatory.

On Friday, after a two-day hearing, the Third District Court of Utah concluded that "the Defendants do not offer persuasive reasons to categorically ban all transgender girls from competing on girls' teams," and barred the enforcement of the ban while the litigation proceeds through Utah state courts.

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"The ban singles out transgender girls and categorically bars them from competing on girls' sports teams," Judge Keith Kelly wrote in his 15-page ruling.

"At the same time, other girls are free to compete. This is plainly unfavorable treatment."

Court's decision to block transgender youth ban is praised

The transgender flag represents
The transgender flag represents  © Al Drago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

"We are very pleased by the Court's decision," Christine Durham, a lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, told the Daily News in a statement.

"Thus far, every court to rule on a similar ban has barred it from taking effect, due in part to the serious harms caused by excluding an entire group of students from such an important school activity," added Durham, senior of counsel at Wilson Sonsini who served as chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court from 2002 to 2012.

Debbie Roe, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, celebrated the ruling saying that "my husband and I are very relieved by this decision" and thanked the court for understanding "how much harm this law has caused."

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"Our daughter just wants the same chance as other kids to make friends and play on the team she loves. Today's ruling gives her the opportunity to do that," she said.

Jean Noe, another parent in the lawsuit, said that HB11 is "based on stereotypes and misconceptions that are harmful to all girls," adding that she's grateful that the "dangerous" legislation has been put on hold and that "at least for the moment, all Utah children can know that they are valued and supported."

Earlier this year, when Cox announced he would veto the legislation, he cited high suicide rates for LGBTQ+ youth. He also noted that out of 85,000 student-athletes who are competing in school sports in the states, only four of them are transgender.

Cover photo: Collage: GEORGE FREY & Al Drago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP &

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