SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Transgender girls in Utah will have a chance to participate in girls’ sports as the school year begins after a judge on Friday overturned a ban pending legal challenges from parents.
Instead of an outright ban, transgender girls will now go before a state commission of political appointees who 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 as a backup plan to be implemented in the event of a mandate against the law.
Under the law, the court will be able to ask for and assess the child’s height and weight in making decisions about whether a transgender girl would have an unfair advantage. The commission, which will be convened in the coming weeks, will include a medical data statistician, a physician with expertise in gender identity health care, a sports physiologist, a mental health professional, an athletic trainer with · member, a representative of a sports association and a rotator. member who is a coach or official of the sport relevant to each case.
The Utah ruling marked the latest judicial development in a nationwide debate about how to navigate a fire problem.
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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 aren’t just about sports, but another way to degrade and attack transgender youth. Similar cases are pending in states like 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 three transgender student-athletes who filed the lawsuit have shown they suffered significant distress by “selecting them for to unfavorable treatment as transgender girls”.
The transgender girls and their parents filed the lawsuit last May, claiming it violates the Utah Constitution’s guarantees of equal rights and due process.
The ruling was exciting news for the girls and their families, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“The pressure, the strain they were under was so enormous,” Minter said. “It’s such a relief to have that weight lifted.”
Utah state Sen. Stuart Adams, a Republican, said in a statement Friday that the commission will now make decisions “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 becomes a good solution. She hopes the commission will act only as a safety net, with the presumption that transgender girls can play unless there is an obvious issue of competitive fairness.
“How it’s done is very important,” Minter said.
The ruling 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 parents of two girls he had defeated in the competition who questioned whether the girl was transgender. Association spokesman David Spatafore told lawmakers this week that the association and the girl’s high school determined she was indeed a female after examining her school records dating back to the home of children He said the girl and her family were not told about the investigation to spare them embarrassment and “to keep the matter private,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
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Gov. Cox said Thursday at his monthly press conference that the parent’s complaint about the girl being investigated had crossed a line.
“Oh my God, we’re living in this world where we’ve become big losers and we’re looking for any reason why our child lost,” she said. He said he supports fairness in sports, but that “making up accusations like this worries me quite a bit.”
Spatafore declined to disclose the student’s grade, school or sport to protect his identity. He said the student and his 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 looked into 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,” she said. None of the complaints have been verified.
Before the ban, Utah had a registered transgender athlete competing last year on a high school girls team, Spatafore said.