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Judge fast-tracks lawsuit over Utah's transgender athletes ban

Posted at 2:39 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 00:54:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — A judge is moving quickly to decide a lawsuit over Utah's ban on transgender children playing school sports that match their gender identities.

During a hearing on Monday, 3rd District Court Judge Keith Kelly set a series of deadlines for expert witness depositions and disputes over medical records. He scheduled an August hearing on a request by the Utah Attorney General's Office to dismiss the lawsuit a day before he considers a request by the plaintiffs to grant a restraining order to block the law from going into effect.

The legislature earlier this year banned transgender children from playing school sports that match their gender identity. Governor Spencer Cox vetoed the bill, but the Utah State Legislature met in a special session to override it. Three transgender student athletes and their families are suing, arguing the ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory. In the event the state loses any lawsuit, the legislature built in a fall-back plan that creates a special commission to evaluate player eligibility.

The biggest dispute will likely be over medical records of the three children related to their gender transitioning, attorneys indicated. Lawyers for the children bristled at some of the requests from the Utah Attorney General's Office. But the attorney general's office suggested it did not plan to subject the children to in-court proceedings, even if the hearing were to be sealed.

However, the attorney general's office wanted some medical records of the children, over the objections of the plaintiffs' lawyers.

"If we can’t get the information about how tall the plaintiffs are for example, and what their wingspans are, then we would need to obtain that information perhaps through calling them to the witness stand and bringing a tape measure," assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf told the judge.

He argued the information was relevant.

"If the [plaintiffs] are going to resist handing over information about how tall somebody is, that doesn’t bode well for our ability to get information we need in order to describe competitive advantages in swimming and volleyball. And it’s not just a categorical ban as they describe it. They’re not just bringing a facial challenge. They’ve also brought as-applied challenges," Wolf said. "So competitive advantage that the individual has vis-a-vis cisgender girls is clearly relevant and information I really don’t understand what they’re fighting against. Perhaps they won’t."

"We just fundamentally disagree that those things are relevant," replied Deno Himonas, the attorney for the plaintiffs. "It is a categorical ban and competitive advantage or non-competitive advantage just doesn’t matter."

Judge Kelly said he would decide what records would be relevant in future hearings.