A 10-year-old girl will be allowed to rejoin the girls’ softball team at her school after a judge issued a partial injunction against Indiana’s trans sports ban.
On July 26, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana wrote in a 28-page ruling that a student referred to as A.M. in court documents would suffer “irreparable harm” if she were not allowed to play softball at her Indianapolis elementary school. In April, Indiana lawmakers forced through House Bill 1041, a law preventing trans girls in grades K-12 from competing in school sports in alignment with their lived gender.
“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,” she wrote in the ruling.
Magnus-Stinson, an Obama appointee, further claimed that supporters of HB 1041 had not demonstrated that allowing A.M. to play girls’ softball posed a problem that would merit the law’s passage. She noted that Indiana lawmakers failed to provide evidence that “other players complained about A.M. being on the team due to an athletic advantage, or that she actually has an athletic advantage.”
“The harm the state suggests could occur—that biological girls will be forced to compete against transgender girls who allegedly have an athletic advantage—is speculative, and there is no evidence in the record that allowing A.M. to play on the girls’ softball team will make this harm a reality,” she said.
The injunction is effective immediately, but only applies to A.M.’s case. She is preparing to enter fifth grade in the fall, according to reports.
Following the ruling, Indianapolis Public Schools said it will comply with the decision, and that the district will not stand in the way of A.M. playing girls’ sports. “We will continue to support our students, including our transgender students, with the same care and attention we’ve demonstrated prior to the passage of [the law] and the filing of the current lawsuit,” a representative told the local newspaper Indianapolis Star.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita signalled, however, that he intends to appeal the ruling and noted that the court order stops short of repealing HB 1041 in its entirety. “The law remains in effect across the state and we will continue our work to defend this law and to protect Indiana’s students,” he said in a press statement.
The Hoosier State is one of 18 in the U.S. to restrict the participation of trans athletes in school sports, as well as one of nine to pass such a law in 2022. Supporters of HB 1041 claimed it ensures “a fair and equal opportunity to compete for Hoosier girls.”
“This issue stems from Hoosier parents like me who are concerned about our female athletes, and their opportunities to compete, earn top spots and obtain scholarship [sic],” said the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland), in a statement cited by The Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper. “This law is a common-sense approach to protect and preserve the integrity of girls’ sports.”
The state’s own Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, vetoed the law after it passed the Indiana House in January and the Senate in March. He said it sought to address a problem that doesn’t exist, given that the Indiana High School Athletic Association has confirmed there are no trans athletes playing high school sports in the state.
“It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive female sports are not currently being met,” he wrote in a letter accompanying his veto. “After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal.”
The veto made Holcomb one of a handful of Republican governors to refuse to sign an anti-trans sports ban following Utah’s Spencer Cox in March 2022 and North Dakota’s Doug Burgum in April 2021. (Utah’s bill became law anyway, while North Dakota’s did not.) In May, Republican lawmakers elected to nullify his objections, voting 67-28 in the House and 32-15 in the Senate to override the veto. HB 1041 went into effect on July 1.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued to overturn many of the trans sports bans across the country and plans to fight for a full repeal of the Indiana law.
“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,” said ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk in a press release.