Snowboarders entitled to equal protection under the Constitution, appeal claims

Posted at 7:52 PM, Jul 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-31 21:52:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY — In its response to a request from the U.S. government and Alta Ski Area to toss its appeal, a group of snowboarders are asking a federal appeals court to protect it under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

In a filing with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, a group calling itself “Wasatch Equality” countered arguments by the federal government and the ski resort seeking to have the snowboarders’ appeal tossed.

“Rather than address Plaintiffs’ claims directly, Defendants construct and attack a series of self-serving straw men. Perhaps foremost among them, Defendants continue to argue that Plaintiffs are asserting a ‘constitutional right to snowboard,’ which Plaintiffs have never claimed,” attorneys for Wasatch Equality wrote.

The group claims in its court filing that snowboarders that it wants “equal treatment,” insisting that snowboarders “are an identifiable and cognizable class.” They cite the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which has been used in discrimination cases involving race, religion, gender and most recently, cases involving same-sex marriage.

“Alta seeks to distinguish between ‘snowboarders’ as people who identify with a specific culture versus people who choose to use a snowboard. But, because both consist of people identified by membership or participation in a group or activity, Alta’s distinction is irrelevant. Moreover, the Equal Protection Clause protects classes created by the voluntary choices of its members,” Wasatch Equality wrote.

Read the filing here:

In its reply brief, Wasatch Equality challenges attempts by the U.S. Forest Service, which leases land to Alta, to distance itself from the resort’s snowboarding ban. It contends the government has a symbiotic relationship with the resort, and also makes decisions about equipment used on public lands.

In its own filing, Alta Ski Area insisted that it does not discriminate against people — just equipment. Last year, a federal judge rejected Wasatch Equality’s arguments and tossed the case. The snowboarders’ group appealed to the 10th Circuit.

The group has requested oral arguments before the appeals court.