Breaking News
More () »

Tom Horne defends transgender sports ban amidst lawsuit

A lawsuit opposing the ban involves transgender girls who hope to play sports.

PHOENIX — Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne held a news conference Wednesday morning pushing back against a lawsuit seeking to do away with the state's ban on transgender girls competing in women's sports.

RELATED: Lawsuit attempts to stop Arizona from enforcing restrictions on transgender athletes. 

Last month, families of two transgender girls in Arizona filed litigation targeting the ban signed last year.

"I feel very deep sympathy for people who believe they were born in the wrong body. But I also believe biological males should not compete with females," said Horne.

Horne said studies show males to have an athletic advantage even before puberty.

Former University of Arizona swimmer Marshi Smith supported Horne and the ban.

"Our daughters deserve fair competition, equal opportunities, not only have a chance to play but a chance to win," Smith said.

The 2005 NCAA backstroke champion said she was disappointed that a transgender woman, Lia Thomas, was able to compete and win an NCAA Championship.

"I can only dream that my seven-year-old, who is currently in swim lessons and has the opportunity to compete at Arizona like I did," Smith said.

Smith co-founded an organization supporting a policy that has athletes compete in leagues based on their biological sex.

However, lawyers behind the lawsuit say Arizona's ban is unconstitutional.

“No child should be excluded from an activity because of who they are,” said National Center for Lesbian Attorney Amy Whelan. 

"It’s not a threat to Title IX for transgender kids to have access to sports in the same way that other kids do."

Whelan said the ban excludes a subsect of children and addresses a problem that did not exist.

Before the ban, Arizona handled requests by transgender athletes on a case-by-case basis.

"In recent years, there were only 16 requests," Whelan said. "Just putting that number into context, there are 170,000 high school athletes who compete every year in Arizona."

For Smith, she thinks the conversation focuses on the wrong things.

"I think the focus is in the wrong place. We are focused on mandating that girls surrender their opportunities," Smith said. "We need to shift the perspective and encourage the coaches and parents of boys teams to make boys and men or open category teams inclusive for young men who want to dress however they want to be dress and call themselves by whatever name and make sure they are welcomed into the boy sports category."

No court date for arguments, in this case, has been set.

Up to Speed

Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.

Before You Leave, Check This Out