Judge blocks enforcement of Indiana transgender sports ban | Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Judge blocks enforcement of Indiana transgender sports ban

The federal judge’s ruling allows the 10-year-old plaintiff to rejoin her school’s softball team while the lawsuit continues.

INDIANAPOLIS (CN)  — An Indiana federal judge on Tuesday blocked enforcement of a state law that bans transgender girls from playing on girls’ school sports teams.

The underlying lawsuit was filed in May and challenges an Indiana law known as HEA 1041 that bars transgender girls from participating on K-12 public school sports teams that are designated for girls.

The controversial legislation was vetoed in March by Indiana’s Republican Governor Eric Holcomb, but the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to override the veto two months later.

In a 28-page ruling issued Tuesday, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in Indianapolis found that the 10-year plaintiff, who is identified as A.M. in court documents, has shown a likelihood of success and that the law cannot be enforced against her.

“The singling out of transgender females is unequivocally discrimination on the basis of sex, regardless of the policy argument as to why that choice was made. The Court finds that A.M. has established a strong likelihood that she will succeed on the merits of her Title IX claim,” wrote Magnus-Stinson, a Barack Obama appointee.

Title IX is a civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, and by extension school run athletic teams, and the challenged law only includes a sports ban for transgender girls and not transgender boys.

Magnus-Stinson found not only that HEA 1041 most likely runs afoul of Title IX rules, but that the state had failed to show that there was any harm in allowing A.M. to return to her softball team. The judge issued a preliminary injunction to allow just that.

Kenneth Falk of the Indiana ACLU, one of the lawyers representing A.M., released a statement celebrating the ruling.

“When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar transgender girls from school sports it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX, a law that protects all students – including trans people – on the basis of sex,” Falk said. “We are pleased that Judge Magnus-Stinson has recognized this and required that A.M. be allowed to play on her school’s softball team.”

The complaint also challenges the law on grounds that it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, but Magnus-Stinson declined to reach that claim.

“Because the Court has found that A.M. is entitled to a preliminary injunction on her Title IX claim, it will not consider whether she is entitled to a preliminary injunction on her Equal Protection claim,” the judge wrote.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican who supports HEA 1041, noted in a tweet Tuesday that the ruling only applies to A.M.

“The law (HEA 1041) remains in effect across the state and we will continue our work to defend this law and to protect Indiana’s K12 students," Rokita said.

Rokita had previously called the case a “baseless lawsuit by the leftist ACLU.”

So long as the injunction remains in place, A.M. will be able to participate on her school’s softball team, but as the injunction only applies to her, it's unclear how other Indiana courts might rule on the ban.

“If other students are being denied the right to join a sports team at their school due to their transgender status, we encourage them to contact the ACLU of Indiana immediately,” Falk said. 

Categories / Civil Rights, Education, Law, Regional, Sports

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