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Utah Families Sue Over Trans-Exclusionary Sports Law

Utah capitol
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The law, set to go into effect July 1, "violates multiple provisions of the Utah Constitution," the suit says.

Two Utah families have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on transgender girls participating in girls' school sports.

The families, identified by pseudonyms, filed the suit Tuesday in a Utah state court in Salt Lake City. They are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, and the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. It names as defendants the Utah High School Activities Association, the Granite School District, and the district's superintendent, Rich K. Nye.

The plaintiffs are identified as Jenny Roe, a 16-year-old high school junior who wants to play volleyball her senior year, and Jane Noe, a 13-year-old swimmer, along with Roe's mother and Noe's mother and father.

"My last season playing volleyball was one of the best times of my life. I loved my teammates, felt part of something bigger than myself, and finally had a way to socialize with friends after being cooped up during the pandemic," Jenny Roe said in an NCLR press release. "This law devastated me. I just want to play on a team like any other kid."

"It feels like an attack on our family," added her mother, Debbie Roe. "Parents want their kids to be happy and to be surrounded by people who love and nurture them. This law does the opposite -- it tells my daughter that she doesn't belong and that she is unworthy of having the same opportunities as other students at her school."

"As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy," said Jean Noe, mother of Jane Noe. "My husband and I love Utah, and our children have benefited from living here. This law changes all of that and we are having serious conversations, for the first time, about whether we can stay here. 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."

"By singling out transgender girls for disfavored treatment, the Ban violates multiple provisions of the Utah Constitution," the suit contends. "The law erroneously uses a student's transgender status as a proxy for athletic ability and thus is overbroad, unjustifiably banning all transgender girls from competing on girls' teams regardless of their individual circumstances or the sport in which they want to compete."

Further, the suit says, the law "stigmatizes and discriminates against Plaintiffs because they are transgender girls, singles them out for less favorable treatment than other girls, denies them equal educational opportunities, and subjects them to serious adverse effects on their physical and mental health." It "is based on unfounded stereotypes, fears, and misconceptions about girls who are transgender," the suit continues. "It is not supported by medical or scientific evidence."

The legislation, House Bill 11, was vetoed by Gov. Spencer Cox in March, but lawmakers quickly overrode his veto. In vetoing the bill, Cox had cited potential harm to trans youth and noted that the Utah High School Activities Association already had a policy in place requiring trans girls to have gone through a year of hormone therapy under a doctor's care before participating in girls' sports. He also pointed out that only one trans student was currently competing in girls' sports in Utah.

The law is set to take effect July 1.

"This law bans transgender girls from competing with other girls in every sport, at every grade level, and regardless of each girl's individual circumstances," Christine Durham, former chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court and a lawyer at Wilson Sonsini, said in the NCLR press release. "It cannot survive constitutional scrutiny and it endangers transgender children."

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