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ACLU files lawsuit to challenge transgender athlete law in Tennessee

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The ACLU and Lambda Legal are again challenging laws that restrict transgender athletes competing in middle school and high school sports.

On Thursday, the two groups announced a joint lawsuit in the state of Tennessee, challenging SB 228. The law was signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on March 26 and requires students in grades 5-12 to participate in sports based on their sex “at the time of the student’s birth, as indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.”

“I signed the bill to preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition,” Gov. Lee tweeted after signing the bill. “This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work.”

As part of the lawsuit, the ACLU is representing 14-year-old Luc Esquivel, a freshman golfer at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Esquivel had planned to try out for the boys’ golf team at Farragut.

“I was really looking forward to trying out for the boys’ golf team and, if I made it, training and competing with and learning from other boys and improving my game,” Esquivel said in a statement. “Then, to have the legislature pass a law that singled out me and kids like me to keep us from being part of a team, that crushed me, it hurt very much. I just want to play, like any other kid.”

The law made Tennessee one of 10 states to have restrictions for transgender athletes who participate in sports.

Idaho was the first state to pass such a law, in March 2020, which was subsequently blocked in federal court. In 2021, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, West Virginia, Tennessee and Texas all enacted legislation that affects transgender student-athletes. Additional lawsuits have been filed in West Virginia and Florida.