Attorneys for transgender students seek to block school sports ban from taking effect

The ban on transgender students in school sports is set to go into effect on July 1.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Clayton Middle School students protest against HB 11, which prohibits transgender students from competing in sports, in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Lawyers for transgender student athletes in Utah are trying to get a Salt Lake City court to block a bill that would bar transgender athletes from competing.

In a motion Wednesday that doubles as a relief request and an amended complaint, attorneys representing three transgender students are seeking an injunction to block HB 11 in Utah, which they argue violates the U.S. and Utah constitutions. They argue that the bill is unconstitutional and unlawfully discriminates against transgender students.

The motion, written by former Utah Supreme Court Justice Dino Hemonas, who also represents the children, seeks to permanently prevent defendants from enforcing the ban.

The accused include the Utah High School Activities Association, Granite and Jordan counties and county administrators. When the lawsuit was initially filed on May 31, it included only two students and was named Granite School District and its principal, Rich Nye. The amended complaint states that a third, 14-year-old girl in the Jordan School District is suing her school district and names Anthony Godfrey, Superintendent of Jordan, as the defendant.

The group of three students, identified by aliases in court files, includes a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl in the Granite School District.

The bill – which is set to take effect next week – was rejected by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox before the legislature overturned its veto in March. The House voted 56 to 18 to approve the veto override, and the Senate approved the override by 21 to 8.

The lawsuit against HB 11 was first filed earlier this month. Kristen Durham, a former Utah Supreme Court justice and one of the attorneys representing the teens, said when the lawsuit was filed that the ban would not withstand scrutiny and put transgender children at risk.

“This law prohibits transgender girls from competing with other girls in every sport, at every level, and regardless of each girl’s individual circumstances,” Durham told The Tribune earlier this month.

Lawyers argued in Wednesday’s request that the ban would fail any level of judicial review because it “categorizes girls on one trait – being transgender – and then flatly excludes them from competing in every sport, at every level.”

“Under Utah’s Equal Rights Clause, government classifications based on gender are subject to intense scrutiny and are presumably unconstitutional,” the movement says.

Court records indicate that the children’s attorney met with a judge at the Third District Court in Salt Lake City earlier this week. The Utah District Attorney’s Office must file a response before the judge can rule on the proposed injunction.

According to court records, the court has set aside time to discuss the matter on August 10 and 11. However, the court’s proposed dates are after the start of the ban is set.

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