A Utah state judge granted an injunction on Friday that temporarily blocks a law prohibiting biological boys from competing in girls' sports, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Third District Judge Keith A. Kelly wrote that Section 1 of House Bill 11, which codifies the ban, will be halted from enforcement until ongoing legal battles are completed. Meanwhile, the rest of the legislation will remain in effect.
"The ban singles out transgender girls and categorically bars them from competing on girls' sports teams," Kelly wrote. "At the same time, other girls are free to compete. This is plainly unfavorable treatment."
"Proponents of the ban claimed that it is necessary to protect girls' sports," he continued. "But unlike the reasons for providing separate teams for boys and girls, which courts generally have found to withstand constitutional scrutiny, the defendants do not offer persuasive reasons to categorically ban all transgender girls from competing on girls' teams."
The decision is a big win for three teenagers who brought the lawsuit earlier this year, who have claimed Utah's ban resulted in "devastating harms" and discrimination toward them by creating "sex-based classification."
"These girls are dealing with the shame, the pain, the humiliation of being treated differently," attorney Shannon Minter of the teens' legal team said. "Sports are a big part of who they are, and the ban has taken that away from them. This law is singling them out for being transgender."
Kelly floated the possibility that the plaintiffs could argue for "irreparable harm" from the ban due to "significant distress by singling them out for unfavorable treatment" as transgender people.
State officials still plan to find avenues to restrict transgender participation in girls' sports, specifically by creating a new commission to regulate the issue, the Washington Examiner noted.
Republican lawmaker Kera Birkeland, a sponsor of the original legislation, criticized Kelly's ruling but assured protections will still exist for biological females as the state considers other options.
"Although the judge did not rule in our favor, female athletes can still be assured they can compete fairly as we will soon have a commission in place," Birkeland said. "For every girl who is feeling unseen or unheard right now — I hear you. Be proud of the body you were given and its abilities. You are fierce and amazing just as you are."
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