Democratic AGs back court ruling blocking Indiana transgender athlete ban
A coalition of Democratic attorneys general on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to leave in place a preliminary injunction blocking an Indiana school district from enforcing a new state law that bars transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams.
In an amicus brief filed Thursday in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 16 Democratic attorneys general called on the court to affirm a July district court ruling that a transgender 10-year-old in Indianapolis be allowed to rejoin her school’s girls’ softball team after she was told she could no longer play in accordance with the new law, which took effect July 1.
While the Indiana law — initially vetoed by the state’s Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb but later enacted by the legislature with an override — prohibits transgender girls through high school from participating on girls’ sports teams, it does not bar transgender boys from joining male teams.
Attorneys general on Thursday argued that the law categorically targets transgender women and girls in violation of Title IX, which prohibits schools receiving federal funding from discriminating based on sex.
“Discrimination and exclusion on the basis of one’s transgender status cause tangible economic, educational, emotional, and health harms,” the attorneys general of New York, Hawaii, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia wrote Thursday.
The brief comes just over two months after a coalition of 19 Republican attorneys general led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona opposing a proposed rule change to Title IX that would protect athletes based on gender identity.
“Females and males are biologically distinct, and those key biological differences cannot be undone, leaving females at an enormous competitive disadvantage when facing biological males in sports,” the letter states. “Permitting males who identify as women to compete against biological females would subject biological females to far more than de minimis harm on the basis of sex.”
But in the case of the 10-year-old softball player, identified pseudonymously as A.M. in court documents, most of her cisgender female teammates are faster and stronger than she is, according to her attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana.
A.M. has been living as a girl since she was four years old and is currently taking a puberty blocker that has prevented her from experiencing any of the physiological changes associated with male puberty.
She has played on her school’s girls’ softball team in previous seasons without issue.
In vetoing the now-law in May, Holcomb wrote to the legislature that, after conducting a thorough review, no evidence was found to support the claim that transgender girls were depriving cisgender girls of athletic opportunities, rendering the legislation unnecessary.
State legislators have consistently disagreed, and Sen. Rodric Bray, a Republican, following the legislature’s override of Holcomb’s veto said the measure “a matter of simple fairness,” though he acknowledged that legal challenges were expected.
“We don’t like to get to the state of Indiana sued,” he said, “but it happens from time to time.”
Eighteen states have passed similar laws.