SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A judge on Wednesday rejected the request by Utah officials to throw out a lawsuit challenging a state ban on transgender children who want to compete in youth sports.
The ruling comes before a hearing scheduled for Thursday where Judge Keith Kelly will assess whether to put the law passed by the Republican-majority Legislature this year temporarily on hold.
Kelly ruled the three transgender girls who brought the lawsuit have shown they are harmed by the law that took effect on July 1 and therefore have legal standing for the case to move forward.
Thomas Lee, a former state Supreme Court justice hired by the state to help defend the ban, argued in the hearing that the girls are just “concerned bystanders” who lack standing to bring the lawsuit, KUTV reported.
Parents of the three girls and their attorneys contend in the lawsuit that the law wrongly keeps their children from participating in sports while violating the state constitution that prohibits discrimination and guarantees equal rights and due process.
The issue of whether transgender girls should be allowed to participate in female sports has become a flashpoint across the U.S. with Republican lawmakers passing legislation to block them based on the premise it gives them an unfair competitive advantage. Transgender rights advocates counter that the rules aren’t just about sports but another way to demean and attack transgender youth.
Similar legal cases have been playing out in Idaho, West Virginia and Indiana.
As of March, the Utah High School Activities Association knew of only one transgender girl playing in K-12 sports who would be affected by the ban. The association, which organizes leagues for 85,000 students, has said there have been no publicly made allegations of competitive advantage concerning any of the state’s four transgender youth athletes.