In a recent development in the ongoing legal battle over Utah’s 2022 law banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports teams, a state judge has ruled in favor of protecting the privacy of transgender teenagers by allowing them to keep certain portions of their mental health records confidential. This decision came after two student-athletes and their families sued to challenge the discriminatory law.
Judge Keith Kelly, who temporarily blocked the enforcement of the ban last year, ordered the two students to provide state attorneys with access to their mental health records spanning the last seven years, as well as all documents related to medical transition and puberty. The ban had taken effect after the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode Governor Spencer Cox’s veto, drawing national attention.
Kelly’s ruling acknowledges the distress caused to transgender girls by exclusion from sports and describes the ban as “plainly unfavorable treatment.” He emphasized the need to protect these individuals from “irreparable harm” and severe mental health impacts. However, because the girls’ “physical, mental, and emotional circumstances” influenced the injunction, the judge also considered their mental health records relevant to the case.
Privacy concerns raised by the plaintiffs’ attorneys remain despite this ruling. They argue that the state should not have access to the deeply personal mental health records of minors who have not waived their therapist-client privilege. Only irrelevant third-party details, certain isolated events, and the students’ deadnames will remain redacted.
The next step in the legal proceedings involves determining how these records can be used in court while minimizing potential harm or stress to the minor plaintiffs. The attorney general’s office, representing the state, has asserted its right to full access to the girls’ mental health records, even portions seemingly unrelated to the case.
Supporters of the ban argue that transgender athletes have inherent advantages, compromising fairness in girls’ sports, although there have been few cases demonstrating such advantages. Meanwhile, a backup plan for vetting transgender athletes, created by Republican state lawmakers, allows a commission to assess participation on a case-by-case basis. This approach has also faced criticism for potentially crossing ethical boundaries by considering a child’s physical characteristics and medical history.
As the legal battle unfolds, the protection of transgender teens’ privacy remains a crucial aspect of the fight against discriminatory sports bans in Utah and beyond.