Federal judge rules in favor of transgender girl

The preliminary injunction allows Indianapolis girl to play on a girls softball team.

By: - July 26, 2022 12:04 pm

Indiana’s transgender sports ban gets an initial rebuke in court. (Getty Images)

A federal judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction in favor of a transgender girl who would be blocked from playing girls’ sports under the state’s new ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued Indianapolis Public Schools on behalf of a 10-year-old girl who will no longer be able to play softball on her school’s all-girls’ softball team. The child and her family are identified by initials in the lawsuit.

“A.M. has established that she has a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits of her claim that IPS’s and the Superintendent’s application of § 20-33-13-4 to prohibit her from playing on the girls’ softball team violates Title IX. She has also established that she would suffer irreparable harm for which there is no adequate legal remedy, and that both the balance of harms and the public interest favor issuing an injunction,” the ruling said.

U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said the case “raises controversial issues regarding the boundaries of Title IX and whether and how those boundaries should stretch and shift in an ever-changing world.”

ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said “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.”

He added that 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.”

Title IX is the federal civil rights law that passed in 1972 prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. It gives women athletes the right to equal opportunity in sports in educational institutions that receive federal funds, from elementary schools to colleges and universities.

“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 students,” said Attorney General Todd Rokita. “The court’s ruling allows only this particular plaintiff to play this particular sport at this particular elementary school.”

Indiana lawmakers in March passed the bill, which specifically blocks transgender girls from playing on girl’s school sports teams. It doesn’t impact transgender boys or college and professional sports.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the bill, saying there is no current problem in Indiana and noting the Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy in place to ensure fair competition.

Legislators then returned in May to override the veto. The lawsuit was filed within hours, but the law went into effect July 1 while waiting for an initial ruling.

According to court filings, A.M. began telling her family she was a girl before the age of 4. Now she’s being treated at the Gender Health Clinic at Riley Children’s Hospital and has been living as a girl. She attends school as a girl and her fellow students only know her as a girl.

A Marion County court entered an order changing the gender marker on A.M.’s birth certificate to female and changing her legal first name to her female first name.

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Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.