Conservative moms want to defend Arizona’s anti-trans athlete ban
Gloria Rebecca Gomez
(Arizona Mirror) A trio of conservative activists is asking to intervene in a lawsuit against Arizona’s trans athlete ban, claiming their daughters would face unequal treatment in school sports if the ban is eliminated.
On June 30, Washington, D.C.-based legal firm America First Legal Foundation filed a request to intervene in the case on behalf of Arizona Women of Action, a Christian-led nonprofit that opposes discussions of sexuality in schools, including preferred pronoun use and books with LGBTQ themes.
The three women who joined the motion are Lisa Fink, who heads the Protect Arizona Children Coalition, which has similar anti-LGBTQ stances; Anna Van Hoek, a Higley Unified School District governing board member who ran on a platform of parental rights; and Amber Zenczak, who was an outspoken supporter of the state’s trans athlete ban during its passage through the legislature.
All three are the mothers of daughters involved in school sports and seek to represent their interests.
“All three mothers believe that participating in girls’ team sports has dramatically benefited their daughters’ personal and social development,” wrote attorney James Rogers. “If their teams also included persons born as biological males, virtually all those benefits would evaporate.”
In 2022, amid a national wave of anti-LGBTQ law making, Arizona Republicans successfully barred trans girls from joining school sports teams that matched their gender identity.
Supporters billed the law as a defense of biological girls hoping to excel in their athletic endeavors, despite the reality that trans athletes are an extreme minority.
From 2017 through 2022, only 16 appeals from trans athletes requesting permission to join a sports team consistent with their gender identity were received and approved by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which oversees athletic programs for 170,000 students across the state. About half of those requests were from trans girls.
Earlier this year, two trans athletes and their parents responded by launching a legal challenge against the 2022 law, arguing that it violates numerous equal protection laws, including those in the Fourteenth Amendment, the Title IX Education Amendments of 1972 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The intervention request from Arizona Women of Action isn’t the first. When Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, refused to defend the 2022 law in court, GOP legislative leadership requested permission to do so instead, and were given limited permission last month. Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne will also defend the 2022 law.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association, the public school district and the private school the two girls attend — which were all named as defendants in the lawsuit — will not defend the law.
The three mothers argue that Arizona’s trans athlete ban protects their daughters from unfair competition, which two of them claim has already negatively affected their children.
In 2020, Fink claims, her daughter’s team faced an opposing group that included a “player who very clearly appeared to be a biological male,” and Zenczak said that her youngest daughter’s basketball team also played against a team with a transgender player, though she offered no evidence of her claim.
Zenczak added that the player was more “aggressive” than others and fouled her daughter, but was not punished for it due to the referee’s fear of being accused of discrimination. That experience, according to Zenczak, caused lasting psychological distress for her daughter.
“The experience of Ms. Zenczak’s daughter permanently changed her outlook and approach to sports,” reads the brief. “She has a persistent fear that she will one day have to compete against biological males for the limited number of spots on her girl’s sports team or the limited number of college scholarship opportunities for female athletes.”
Van Hoek, meanwhile, fears that her daughters may one day be forced to play against Jane Doe, one of the two girls in the initial lawsuit who is an avid soccer player planning to attend middle school in the Kyrene School District in the upcoming academic year. One of Van Hoek’s daughters plays on school teams overseen by the Arizona Interscholastic Association and two others are considering attending a school in the same district as 11-year-old Jane.
Attorneys for the three women posit that they offer a valuable point of view that can’t be accurately represented by the other parties in the case.
“The Parent Representatives will bring to this case the vital perspective of biological females, who are the very class of persons whom the (2022 law) is designed to protect,” wrote Rogers.
Rogers added that including the voices of the three women is crucial for mounting an adequate defense of the law. Horne is unable to rely on legal or financial help from the state’s attorney general, who has refused to defend the law or pay for outside counsel.