NASHVILLE, TN (AP) – On Thursday, two civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit against a Tennessee law that prohibits transgender athletes from playing sports in high school or high school based on their gender identity.
The Tennessee Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBTQ civil rights, have filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Nashville on behalf of a 14-year-old transgender boy, arguing that state law violates equal rights protection under Act 14. Amendment and Section IX.
Luke Esquivel is a freshman at Farragut High School in Knoxville whose plans to try his hand at the boys’ golf team were thwarted when Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed into law earlier this year, the lawsuit said.
“I was really looking forward to playing on the boys’ golf team and, if I can, train, compete and learn from other boys and improve my game,” Esquivel said in a press release. “Then, for the legislature to pass a law that would separate me and children like me, so that we were not part of the team, it crushed me, it was very painful. I just want to play like any other kid. “
The problem comes after a wave of republican bills passed across the country this year targeting transgender people. According to the Campaign for Human Rights, 10 states currently have sports bans targeting transgender athletes: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and South Dakota, where the governor used powers executive order. Federal judges have blocked policies adopted this year in West Virginia and in 2020 in Idaho, two states where bans only apply to women’s teams but also apply to college athletics.
Tennessee Gov. Lee helped push the bill early by announcing in February that allowing transgender girls to play on middle and high school sports teams would “destroy women’s sports.” In March, lawmakers passed the law, and Lee signed it into law. Over the next several months, Tennessee became a leading state in passing transgender legislation.
New Tennessee laws this year also restrict the use of toilets in public schools for transgender people, require notifications outside public toilets in businesses and government buildings that allow transgender people to use toilets consistent with their gender identity, allow parents to exclude students from public school lessons on issues of sexual orientation. or gender identity, as well as prohibiting doctors from providing gender-confirming hormones to minors under puberty, although human rights activists say doctors there no longer do this.
The bathroom sign requirement remains blocked by a judge while a federal lawsuit is pending. Tennessee is defending against a federal lawsuit over restricting school toilets, which puts schools at risk of losing lawsuits if they allow transgender students or employees to use multi-person bathrooms or changing rooms that do not reflect their gender at birth.
Meanwhile, lawmakers who have introduced a slew of transgender sport bills this year have struggled to cite any concerns about the involvement of transgender athletes in their states.
Legislation targeting transgender people has sparked protests from well-known opponents, including the business community. But so far, these states have had little tangible impact, especially compared to when the North Carolina legislature passed a law restricting public toilets for transgender people in March 2016, sparking rapid and powerful backlash. NBA and NCAA postponed events; some companies have abandoned expansion plans. By March 2017, the provisions of the toilet law had been repealed.