The state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization is calling on legislative leaders to reconsider the appointment of a controversial doctor to the Utah transgender sports commission.
In a widely-shared statement Wednesday, Equality Utah said it is “dismayed” by the selection of Dr. Paul Hruz for the commission that is tasked with evaluating the bodies of transgender girls and deciding if they can compete in high school sports on girls’ teams.
“We urge legislative leadership to revisit Dr. Hruz’s appointment, so that the commission can be viewed as the delicate compromise that it is, rather than a de facto ban on participation in sports for transgender girls,” the group wrote.
Conservative state lawmakers had originally intended to ban all transgender girls from playing on girls’ teams when they passed HB11 in 2022′s HB11.
But when that was enjoined by the court last fall, their backup plan took place — the School Activity Eligibility Commission. While some have expressed concerns about the commission members being tasked with measuring minors’ bodies, it was also seen by others as a way to let some transgender girls still play.
Troy Williams, the executive director for Equality Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune that the appointment of Hruz now destroys the integrity of that, making the commission feel unfair and like a sham.
“It only works if the process is fair and these people are neutral,” he said. “Now we know that isn’t the case.”
The Tribune reported earlier this week that Hruz has a lengthy track record of openly opposing gender-affirming care. He’s served as an expert witness in multiple court cases to defend denying care to kids who are transgender — and has been called an unreliable witness by multiple judges who have also pointed out his ties to several anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
Hruz has suggested being transgender is caused by a “social contagion.” And he has refused to treat transgender patients in his work as an endocrinologist at Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis.
He was appointed to the position on the sports commission by Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, who had the sole discretion under the law to name the appointment for a “board-certified physician with expertise in gender identity health care.”
Wilson declined to answer questions from The Tribune about his pick. Hruz similarly did not return a request for comment.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who also has the authority to name two members of the board (an athletic trainer and a representative of the Utah High School Activities Association) distanced himself from the pick during his monthly news conference this week.
He noted that he “gets two appointments on that board, and this was not one of mine.”
But he also said he believes it’s valuable to have multiple perspectives among those serving on the board.
“I think it’s really important to have people with different views serving on that board,” he said. “As long as they’re doing the work of the board and following the rules of the board, that’s what matters to me.”
He added that he hopes members make “appropriate decisions” and he’s “always willing to give the benefit of the doubt.”
The work of the commission, though, is done mostly in private. Any decisions about whether an athlete can play are made during closed sessions and specifically not to be disclosed.
But the commission is subject to state public meetings law, which means it must post agendas online. The Tribune searched those and confirmed it has met four times.
Based on the scant meeting minutes, it appears the commission has talked about specific athlete cases four times, though it’s not clear if some are repeat cases.
Williams said he was worried that there was the potential that “children would be humiliated through this process.” Now, he said, those fears feel confirmed with the appointment of Hruz, who has specifically spoken against transgender identities and care. Williams said he doesn’t think transgender girls will be given a fair chance.
“He has already decided the worth of transgender children,” he said. “I can’t imagine any parent wanting to send their child through this.”
In the full statement from Equality Utah, the organization assured the parents of transgender and nonbinary kids that they are engaging with lawmakers “to ensure that your children’s rights and liberties are protected in this state.”