By Paradise Afshar, CNN
A Utah judge granted a preliminary injunction Friday allowing transgender girls to compete on girls’ teams, but they will not be automatically eligible to play.
The decision “will allow transgender girls to compete on girls’ teams only when it is fair, as confidentially determined by a legislature-created commission,” according to the decision by Judge Keith A. Kelly, from the Third Judicial District Court for Salt Lake County.
The motion comes after a lawsuit was filed by the parents of three teenage transgender girls identified under by the pseudonyms Jenny Roe, Jane Noe, and Jill Poe, against the Utah High School Activities Association, Granite School District, Jordan School District and the superintendents for those districts. The suit asked the court to declare the ban unconstitutional and block its enforcement.
In the decision, Judge Kelly said the ban singles out transgender girls and categorically bars them from competing in girls’ team sports, while other girls can compete freely.
“This is plainly unfavorable treatment,” the decision said.
“We are thrilled, and the girls and their families are hugely relieved,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and an attorney representing the girls told CNN via text message.
Mental health took a center stage in the lawsuit, as the student-athletes claimed banning them from playing on girls’ teams could bring physical and mental harm to them. The student-athletes taking part in the legal action are looking to compete on volleyball, swim and cross-country and track teams.
Kelly’s decision said the plaintiffs showed they faced “irreparable harm” from the ban, and it “caused each of the Plaintiffs significant distress by singling them out for unfavorable treatment as transgender girls.”
In March, GOP lawmakers in Utah overrode Republican Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of House Bill 11, which bans transgender athletes from competing on women’s and girls’ sports teams. Advocates said the law was necessary to preserve fair competition opportunities, but Cox questioned the need for it and said it targeted a marginalized group with a high suicide rate.
During the last school year, only four of 75,000 high school athletes in Utah were transgender, and only one transgender girl played on a girls’ team, Cox noted in his veto letter.
In its 2022-2023 handbook, the Utah High School Activities Association, which regulates interscholastic sports and activities in the state, allows male to female transgender student-athletes who are taking a medically prescribed hormone treatment to participate on a boys team at any time, “but must complete at least one calendar year of medically prescribed hormone treatment under a physicians care for the purpose of gender transition before competing on a girls team.”
Additional information about the student, such as a complete list of all the student’s medications and treatments and written verification from an appropriate health care professional of the student’s consistent gender identification must also be submitted.
CNN reached out to the office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and was told they had no comment to make about the judge’s decision.
Jennifer Napier-Pearce, a spokesperson for Governor Cox told CNN, “The governor is reviewing the opinion including his responsibilities under current law.”
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