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Utah Families Sue State Over Law Excluding Transgender Girls from Sports


Friday, June 3, 2022   

Two families are suing the State of Utah over a controversial law that allows schools to exclude transgender students from competing in girls' sports.

House Bill 11 was initially vetoed in March by Gov. Spencer Cox, then overridden by the Republican majority in the Legislature to become state law.

The bill is one of dozens either passed or under consideration in mostly "red" states to limit participation in sports and other activities by transgender children. In Utah, the families say the law violates the state Constitution by excluding their children based on their identity.

Aaron Welcher, communications director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said he thinks the measure has set "a terrible precedent."

"What we're seeing is a search for a problem that isn't there," said Welcher. "And ultimately, the most horrible part of it, from a legal and policy perspective, is that it bans a whole group of people for their identity."

When he vetoed HB 11, the governor called the bill "flawed," saying he was concerned how it might affect the mental health of transgender youth.

Legislative Republicans say the law is designed to protect girls' sports from unfair competition.

The families bringing the lawsuit say they are proceeding anonymously to protect their children. They include a 16-year-old high school junior who wants to play volleyball, and a 13-year-old who wants to join a swim team.

Welcher said he worries the measure could open the door for more discrimination toward transgender and other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning individuals.

"The law treats transgender children as outcasts; sends a dangerous message that it's okay to reject, exclude, because of who they are," said Welcher. "The law was not passed in response to any problem."

In his initial veto, the governor noted school officials could find only four instances of openly transgender students participating in Utah sports.

The case is supported by ACLU Utah, Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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