A judge blocked a Utah transgender law that would have prohibited transgender students from playing on female sports teams.
Conservatives have been pushing for laws restricting transgender girls from playing female sports across the nation. Utah is one of 18 states that have recently passed legislation prohibiting this. But with fierce support, these efforts are similarly met with staunch opposition as well. Now, Utah transgender girls are once again allowed to participate on female sports teams, as a judge just blocked a law from being enforced.
Third District Judge Keith Kelly ruled the Utah transgender law unconstitutional on Friday, August 19th according to reports from The Salt Lake Tribune. The legislation took effect earlier this summer despite Gov. Spencer J Cox’s veto of the bill. It was challenged in a lawsuit by three teenage transgender girls, who heralded the judge’s temporary injunction of the controversial law.
In making his decision in regard to the Utah transgender law, Kelly stated that the legislation harmed transgender girls and created a stigma against them. Insinuating that the ban was discriminatory in nature, he noted that it singled out transgender females, specifically. “This is plainly unfavorable treatment,” Kelly said.
Now that the three high school students are once again allowed to compete on girls’ sports teams this fall, their families, along with the teens’ lawyer applauded the judge’s decision. Shannon Minter, the attorney representing the individuals noted that when the Utah law restricting transgender females’ rights went into effect, it caused the high schoolers “enormous pain and stress.” In a statement, she added that the students can get “back to being kids”.
Dealing with the singling-out context of his decision, when HB 11 was signed into law, it specifically only targeted Utah transgender females, making no restrictions against transgender males. Now that it is temporarily halted, however, another ruling in place will allow the state to determine transgender females’ right to participate on a case-by-case basis. Under this policy, the state will set up a committee that will base measurements on individual students’ wingspan, height, weight, and use of hormonal blockers when formulating a decision on whether or not to allow them to participate.
Just as LGBTQ+ activists are hailing the judge’s decision, others are ridiculing the new measures, fearing that it might further harm transgender students and their mental well-being. By vetting Utah transgenders’ ability to participate in high school sports based on things like weight, some say this procedure crosses personal boundaries. As set by law, the proposed group in charge of making the case-by-case decisions will consist of a mental health professional, a medical expert statistician, a doctor who has experience with gender identity health care, a sports psychologist, a representative from the Utah High School Activities Association, and an athletic trainer.
Now that the judge has agreed that the Utah transgender law likely infringed on the athlete’s rights, Republican lawmakers that praised the original law are assuring their supporters that the incoming committee will continue to preserve the rights of natural-born females. Given the added controversy surrounding the panel, the backup plan is likely to be met with just as much backlash in the coming school year. The state is already under heat from recent reports that the athletic association secretly investigated female athletes on suspicions they might be transgender, so the feud over transgender females is set to continue for what will surely be a long battle ahead.