Here’s where things stand with the court case over Utah’s trans athlete ban
Utah’s legal battle continues over its 2022 law banning transgender girls from competing in public school girls’ sports.
Two transgender minors and their parents are suing the Utah High School Activities Association, the Granite School District and the Jordan School District over the ban, which is currently on hold as this case works its way through the courts.
In September, district court Judge Keith Kelly granted the defense access to the girls’ medical records, saying it was relevant to the case.
The defense has requested, among other things, all documents mentioning the girls’ behavioral health, mental health and any related treatment sought in the last seven years. They’ve also asked for documents showing how the girls’ mental health is affected by whether or not they compete in girls’ sports.
However, after a request from the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Kelly ruled during a Dec. 7 virtual hearing that certain parts of the girls’ mental health records would be redacted.
Kelly said he reviewed the content that would be removed in his chambers and found it would be appropriate to withhold it from the case because it’s confidential and not relevant to the claims in the lawsuit.
Some of the redactions dealt with “isolated and/or irrelevant events” that aren’t related to “any ongoing or long-lasting mental or emotional conditions,” the judge said. Other details the lawyers wanted removed dealt with third parties that are not relevant to the case.
The plaintiffs also wanted to remove the names that the girls were given at birth but no longer use, which are often referred to as “dead names.” Other things that are being censored included “irrelevant background information, such as medical history unrelated to their gender transition,” according to Kelly, who determined everything the plaintiffs’ lawyers wanted to be withheld was appropriate.
Jason Dupree, an attorney with the Utah Attorney General’s Office representing the state, said while the ruling had already been made, he wanted it on the record that the defense objects since “we were not given a chance to respond, as to the relevance of that information.”
Judge Kelly responded that it is not uncommon in this type of situation for the opposing side to not be able to review proposed redactions.
What happens next
The Dec. 7 hearing, which lasted less than 20 minutes, was administrative and didn’t delve into either side’s arguments.
Amy Whelan, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and one of the lawyers representing the two girls, told KUER that they are in the process of fact discovery. This means the plaintiffs and defendants are learning more and answering questions from each other.
The next step in the case, Whelan said, is depositions, which are where lawyers talk with people involved with the case and witnesses. These conversations are done out of the courtroom, but the people being questioned are placed under oath and give sworn testimony.
Both sides are at an impasse regarding how many deposition hours should be allowed. Dupree told Kelly on Dec. 7 that the defense wants 40 hours. Whelan said that is more than is generally allowed for this type of case.
The judge said he wanted to leave it up to both parties to figure that out, instead of having the courts intervene.
Since the plaintiffs are under 18 years old, Whelan said they’re also negotiating parameters for these interviews to minimize causing them stress or harm.
Once the depositions are over, the next step is talking with subject matter experts.
A trial date has not been set yet, but both parties are supposed to confirm by April 19, 2024, that they are ready for trial, according to court documents.
Utah is not the only state with a legal battle currently playing out over legislation about transgender athletes’ participation in girls’ sports.
Lawyers for the state have repeatedly asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit’s claims. In a November court filing, the defense cited how Florida’s law banning transgender athletes was recently upheld by a judge as a reason to dismiss.
In response, the plaintiffs dropped two of their three claims and clarified the third.
“The case will continue on the claim that the court has found a strong likelihood of success,” the ACLU of Utah, who is also representing the girls, said in a statement.