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

The ban on transgender students participating in school sports is slated to take effect on July 1.

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

Attorneys for transgender student-athletes in Utah are trying to get a Salt Lake City court to block the enforcement of a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing.

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

The motion, written by former Utah Supreme Court Justice Deno Himonas, who is also representing the children, seeks to permanently block the defendants from enforcing the ban.

The defendants include the Utah High School Activities Association, the Granite and Jordan school districts and the districts’ superintendents. When the lawsuit was initially filed on May 31, it included only two students and named the Granite School District and its superintendent, Rich Nye. The amended complaint indicates a third girl, a 14-year-old girl in the Jordan School District, is suing her school district and names Anthony Godfrey, the Jordan superintendent, as a defendant.

The group of three students, identified with pseudonyms in court filings, includes a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl in the Granite School District.

The bill — which is slated to take effect next week — was vetoed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox before the Legislature overrode the veto in March. The House voted 56-18 to approve the veto override, and the Senate approved the override with a 21-8 vote.

The lawsuit challenging HB 11 was first filed earlier this month. Christine Durham, a former justice on the Utah Supreme Court who is one of the attorneys representing the teens, said when the lawsuit was filed that the ban would not hold up to scrutiny and endangers transgender children.

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

Attorneys argued in the Wednesday motion that the ban would fail any level of judicial review because “it classifies girls based on a single trait — being transgender — and then categorically excludes them from competing in every sport, at every grade level.”

“Under Utah’s equal rights clause, government classifications based on sex are subject to heightened scrutiny and are presumptively unconstitutional,” the motion says.

Court records indicate that attorneys for the children met with a judge in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court earlier this week. The Utah Attorney General’s Office must file a response before a judge can rule on the proposed injunction.

The court has set aside time to discuss the matter on Aug. 10 and 11, according to court records. However, the proposed court dates are after the ban is set to begin.