- Last year, Arizona Republicans passed legislation barring transgender women from participating on women’s school athletic teams.
- A lawsuit, filed on behalf of two transgender girls, argues that the new state rules violate federal Title IX.
- While the lawsuit is pending, a judge has placed a temporary block on the Arizona law.
A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked Arizona from enforcing a law barring transgender women from playing on girls’ school sports teams.
A judge in Tucson has granted a preliminary injunction to allow processing of a lawsuit filed on behalf of two transgender women against the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year.
The lawsuit argues that the law violates federal Title IX, the law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funds, and the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who is a defendant in the case, said the decision will be appealed.
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“This will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, and they will rule in our favor,” Horne said in a statement.
Arizona is one of several states and several school districts that have passed laws limiting access to school sports teams or other facilities to students based on the gender they were assigned at birth rather than their gender identity.
The plaintiffs in Arizona include a 15-year-old volleyball player and an 11-year-old who likes to play girls’ soccer, basketball and cross-country. In court filings, they were named Jane Doe and Megan Roe.
The parents of the two children said they were pleased with the court’s decision.
“We are pleased that the judge saw through the misconceptions and harmful rhetoric used to demonize transgender women. Our daughter looks forward to making new friends and playing the sports she loves,” Jane Doe’s parents said in a statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is helping to represent them.
Arizona officials say the law passed federal savings because it aims to be fair.
“Title IX is intended to give girls an equal opportunity to play sports. When a biological boy plays in a girls’ sport, it’s detrimental to girls,” Horne told The Associated Press when the lawsuit was filed in April. “There have been many news stories about girls who worked hard to excel in their sports, found they couldn’t when they had to compete against biological boys and were devastated by it.”
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In issuing the preliminary injunction, however, Judge Jennifer G. Zipps said there was no evidence that allowing the children, who were prescribed puberty blockers for gender dysphoria, to play on girls’ teams would have an athletic advantage or pose a safety risk to other players.
Instead, the judge said the children would “suffer severe and irreversible mental, physical, and emotional harm if the Act applies to them because they cannot play on boys’ sports teams” that would be “painful and humiliating.”
“There is a consensus among medical organizations that gender identity is innate and cannot be changed through psychological or medical treatment,” the decision said.
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“The plaintiffs’ mental health depends on living as girls in all aspects of their lives,” the judge wrote.
LGBTQ+ rights advocates say bills like the one passed in Arizona and hundreds of others across the US are anti-transgender attacks disguised as protections for children and are using transgender people as political pawns to galvanize GOP voters ahead of an election year.
Courts have blocked some measures in several states, including last week in Wisconsin.