Judge blocks ‘hateful’ Arizona ban on trans girls playing sports

Person holding up 'Protect Trans Youth' sign

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the state of Arizona from enforcing its trans sports ban, warning that the law could cause “irreparable harm” to trans youth.

On Thursday (20 July), federal judge Jennifer G Zipps granted a preliminary injunction on an Arizona law banning trans women and girls from playing on school and college sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The temporary block will allow a lawsuit filed in April by the parents of two trans girls to be processed. 

The suit alleges that Arizona’s trans sports ban violates Title IX – which prevents federally-funded education programmes and activities from discriminating on the basis of sex – and the equal protection clause in the US Constitution. 

The plaintiffs are a 15-year-old volleyball player and an 11-year-old who wants to run cross-country and play soccer and basketball. They are known in court filings as Jane Doe and Megan Roe. 

Arizona’s ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2022. It restricts trans girls and women from being able to participate on sports teams that align with their gender identity at publicly-funded schools from grade school through college.

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Democrats in the state Senate have called the bill “hateful” and described it as amounting to “bullying transgender kids”

In issuing the injunction, Judge Zipps ruled that there was no evidence that trans girls who have been prescribed puberty blockers have an athletic advantage over other girls or pose a safety risk to teammates. 

Judge Zipps said the children in question will “suffer severe and irreparable mental, physical, and emotional harm if the Act applies to them because they cannot play on boys’ sports teams”. Playing on boys’ sports teams, she said, would be “painful and humiliating”. 

Her ruling continued: “Plaintiffs’ mental health is dependent on living as girls in all aspects of their lives.”

‘The judge saw past the misconceptions and harmful rhetoric used to demonise transgender girls’

The parents of Jane Doe said they were “relieved” with the judge’s decision, in a statement from the National Centre for Lesbian Rights, which is helping to represent them.

“We are relieved that the judge saw past the misconceptions and harmful rhetoric used to demonise transgender girls,” Doe’s parents said.

“Our daughter is looking forward to making new friends and playing the sports that she loves.”

However, superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne, a defendant in the case, said the federal judge’s decision will be appealed.

“This will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court, and they will rule in our favour,” Horne said.

According to nonprofit MAP, 22 US states have laws that ban transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity, including Texas, Florida, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Montana.

LGBTQ+ rights – and particularly the rights of young trans people – are currently under attack across the US, with the Human Rights campaign declaring a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ Americans for the first time in history.

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