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Utah families file lawsuit challenging transgender ban in girls sports

May 31, 2022, 6:45 PM | Updated: Jun 1, 2022, 8:02 am
west high protest...
FILE: West High Students walk out of class April 6, 2022, to protest the state's new law banning transgender girls from competing in high school sports. (Lindsay Aerts)
(Lindsay Aerts)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah families filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging H.B. 11, a recently passed law that bans transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Originally, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the bill, during the 2022 legislative session. In a special session, however, the Utah Legislature overrode the governor’s veto.

The law bans every transgender girl from competing in school sports regardless of her medical care or individual circumstances.

Students, families sue over Utah law

The students included in this lawsuit currently attend public schools. Their attorneys say they love sports and have a desire to participate in athletics with other girls. 

According to a news release, the families proceeded with the lawsuit anonymously so as to protect the identity of the student-athletes. The athletes include a 16-year-old junior who wishes to play volleyball her senior year and a 13-year-old swimmer. 

“It feels like an attack on our family,” the mother of the 16-year-old said in the release. “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.”

The mother of the 13-year-old says it may come to the point where her family may have to move from Utah.

“As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy,” she said. “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.”

Before the passage of H.B. 11, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) had guidelines overseeing the participation of transgender students in school sports. According to the UHSAA, there are 75,000 student-athletes in Utah high schools. Only four of those are transgender, and only one had participated in girls’ sports. 

Reaction from bill sponsor

Utah Rep. Kera Birkeland, who sponsored the bill, responded to KSL’s request for a reaction. 

“The lawsuit filed today is not surprising, as such actions have been threatened since the beginning,” Birkeland said in an email. “My goal has always been to protect girls sports and female athletes across the state and I hope the courts will recognize that and uphold the legislation.”

In a statement Tuesday night, Sen. Curt Bramble and Sen. Dan McCay issued statements regarding the lawsuit:

“All kids deserve fair opportunities; however, we must acknowledge the fact that biological boys and girls are built differently,” said Sen. Curt Bramble. “H.B. 11 doesn’t prevent athletes from competing as they can still compete against their same biological gender. The intention of H.B. 11 is to preserve women’s sports and protect future athletic opportunities. If a court allows biological males to compete in female sports, H.B. 11 puts Utah ahead of the curve by creating an unbiased, data-driven commission, continuing to protect female athletes.”

“H.B. 11 is trying to protect two things: safety and the integrity of competition,” said Sen. Dan McCay. “It is our responsibility as lawmakers to pass legislation that ensures women still have a place in their sport. H.B. 11 does just that. At times, litigation is part of the process, and we will work within the legal system to get answers. H.B. 11 also creates a commission if a ban is put on hold that will help foster a safe and fair environment for all athletes.”

To listen to KSL NewsRadio’s reporting of the story, click on the play button below. 

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Utah families file lawsuit challenging transgender ban in girls sports