Media Contact

Aaron Welcher, ACLU Utah Communications Director, awelcher@acluutah.org, 317.376.0468
Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Communications, cvasquez@nclrights.org, 415.365.1337

August 19, 2022

UTAH COURT HALTS LAW BARRING TRANSGENDER GIRLS FROM PLAYING ON GIRLS’ SPORTS TEAMS

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Today, the Third District Court of Utah issued an order blocking enforcement of a newly enacted law, H.B. 11, that barred all transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. The court held that the new law likely violates the equality guarantees of the Utah Constitution by singling out transgender girls and barring them from competing on girls’ teams regardless of their individual circumstances. After a two-day hearing, the court concluded that “the Defendants do not offer persuasive reasons to categorically ban all transgender girls from competing on girls’ teams.”

The court noted that its decision will not mean that every transgender girl is able to play on girls’ teams, but rather that every transgender girl will have an opportunity to do so. The court explained that under another part of the new law, if the ban is struck down, a statewide commission will “consider confidentially, for each transgender girl who seeks to compete in school athletics, whether it would fair to permit that transgender girl to compete on girls’ teams.”

“My husband and I are very relieved by this decision,” said Debbie Roe, a parent Plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We are grateful the court understood how much harm this law has caused, which has been a huge source of stress and trauma for our child. Our daughter just wants the same chance as other kids to make friends and play on the team she loves. Today’s ruling gives her the opportunity to do that.” 

The suit, Roe v. UHSAA, is brought by three Utah girls who love sports and wish to play on their school’s teams. The ruling follows a hearing at which the girls’ attorneys presented evidence of the ongoing harm caused by enforcement of the law.

“This is a win not only for my child but for all girls in this state,” said Jean Noe. “This law is based on stereotypes and misconceptions that are harmful to all girls. I am grateful the court has put this dangerous law on pause and that, at least for the moment, all Utah children can know that they are valued and supported.”   

“We are very pleased by the Court’s decision,” said Justice Christine Durham, former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and Senior Of Counsel at Wilson Sonsini. “Thus far, every court to rule on a similar ban has barred it from taking effect, due in part to the serious harms caused by excluding an entire group of students from such an important school activity. We read today’s decision as recognizing that the law is not only discriminatory but puts Utah children at needless risk of lifelong harm. We look forward to moving forward with the case and securing a permanent decision blocking the law from taking effect.”   

The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU of Utah), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, whose team was led by former Utah Supreme Court Justices Christine Durham and Deno Himonas, and Fred Rowley, a renowned appellate advocate.

The court’s ruling on the preliminary injunction bars enforcement of the ban while the remainder of the litigation proceeds through Utah state courts.

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The ACLU of Utah, chartered in 1958, operates through public education, legal advocacy, litigation, and lobbying at both the state and local levels to ensure the constitutional rights and freedoms of everyone living in or visiting Utah. Our work is based on those principles outlined in the Bill of Rights and our priorities include: Participatory Democracy; Racial Justice; Immigrants' Rights; Religious Liberty & Freedom of Belief; and Privacy & Technology. In addition, we continue our commitment to reform the Utah criminal justice system, protect the First Amendment, reproductive freedoms, and equality for all. www.acluutah.org

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable. www.nclrights.org

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is a law firm that provides legal services focused on serving the principal challenges faced by the management and boards of directors of business enterprises. The firm is nationally recognized as a leading provider to growing and established clients seeking legal counsel to complete sophisticated corporate and technology transactions; manage governance and enterprise-scale matters; assist with intellectual property development, protection, and IP-driven transactions; represent them in contested disputes; and/or advise them on antitrust or other regulatory matters. With deep roots in Silicon Valley, Wilson Sonsini has offices in 18 technology and business hubs worldwide, including Salt Lake City, Utah. www.wsgr.com