SALT LAKE CITY, AP — Transgender girls in Utah will have the opportunity to participate in women’s sports at the start of the school year, after a judge overturned a ban on Friday pending legal challenges from parents.
Instead of an outright ban, transgender girls will now be referred to a commission that will determine on a case-by-case basis whether their participation compromises fairness. Republican lawmakers in Utah created the commission in legislation passed earlier this year as a fallback plan to be implemented in the event of an injunction against the law.
Under the law, the panel will be allowed to ask for and assess the child’s height and weight to decide whether a transgender girl would be given an unfair advantage.
The commission, which is expected to be convened in the coming weeks, will include politically appointed experts from athletics and medicine.
When it was proposed, the commission was criticized by advocates for transgender student-athletes – who feared they would feel targeted by having their bodies measured – and supporters of an outright ban, who argued that she didn’t go far enough.
The commission is expected to go into effect while the court assesses the legal challenge to the outright ban. The members have not yet been named but will be in the coming weeks, the legislative leaders said.
The state association that oversees more than 80,000 students playing high school sports said only one transgender girl competed in their leagues last year and, with school sports already underway, it’s unclear. how many will go before the commission and when its decisions will take effect.
The Utah ruling marked the court’s latest development in a national debate over how to navigate the flashpoint problem.
At least 12 Republican-run states — including Utah — have passed laws banning transgender women or girls in sports on the assumption that it gives them an unfair competitive advantage.
Transgender rights advocates who contradict the rules are not just about sports, but about another way to belittle and attack transgender youth. Similar cases are ongoing in states such as Idaho, West Virginia and Indiana.
Utah’s ban went into effect in July after its Republican-dominated legislature overruled a veto by Governor Spencer CoxAlso a Republican.
Utah State Judge Keith Kelly said in the ruling suspending the ban that attorneys representing the families of three transgender student-athletes had shown they had suffered significant distress by “singling them out for unfavorable treatment as transgender girls”.
The transgender girls and parents filed a lawsuit last May, claiming the ban violates the equal rights and due process guarantees of the Utah Constitution.
The ruling was exciting news for the girls and their families, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who also represented same-sex couples in a landmark court case against Utah last decade. .
“The pressure, the pressure it put on them was so huge,” Minter said. “It’s just a huge relief to have that weight lifted.”
Sen. Stuart Adams, a Republican from the state of Utah, said in a statement Friday that the commission that would now make decisions in a way that “protects fair and safe competition while preserving the integrity of women’s sport” .
The commission will include a medical data statistician, a physician with experience in “gender identity health”, a sports physiologist, a mental health professional, a college athletic trainer, a representative of a sports association and a rotating member who is a coach or official in the sport. relevant for each case.
Minter said he hopes the commission will simply act as a safety net, with the presumption being that transgender girls can play unless there is a clear competitive fairness issue.
“How it’s done is very important,” Minter said.
The decision follows a revelation this week from the Utah High School Activities Association that it had secretly investigated a female athlete – without telling her or her parents – after receiving complaints from the parents of two girls she had beaten in competition wondering if the girl was transgender.
The inquest – which was roundly criticized by Cox – determined she was indeed female after going through her school records dating back to kindergarten, association spokesman David Spatafore told lawmakers this week.
Critics of the ban were upset but said they were not surprised by the investigation. They said it underscored how the impact of the politicization of women’s sport affects more than just transgender student-athletes and subjects all girls to scrutiny in ways they anticipate.
“It creates such a negative atmosphere based on stereotypes about girls and how they look,” Minter said. “It’s really harmful to all the children in the state.”
The sequence of events also explained how officials can press charges now that youth sports and the associations that govern them are subject to national laws. Spatafore said the complaint was among several the association has reviewed in its efforts to comply with Utah’s law, which went into effect in July.