Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) announced Monday that he and House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) have motioned to intervene in a court case in defense of a state law banning biological men from participating in women’s sports because Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) has refused to do so herself.
“Like it or not, it is Attorney General Mayes’ job to defend state law the Legislature passes. Because she won’t do her job, I feel an obligation as House Speaker, and as a father of five daughters, to intervene in this case and stand up for women and girls who should not be forced to compete in sports with biological males, who have obvious and unfair physiological advantages that cannot be overlooked,” Toma said in a statement emailed to The Arizona Sun Times.
The law in question came from Senate Bill (SB) 1165, which former State Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) sponsored in 2022. As advertised, the bill prohibits a public or private school-sponsored sport competing against other public schools from allowing a biological male to compete alongside females. The only exception is for intermural sports and one specifically labeled as “mixed” or co-ed. The law also states that a government entity may not act against a school for complying with this law. If students are “deprived of an athletic opportunity” because their school violated the law, they are entitled to relief from that school.
Former Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed the bill in March of 2022, calling it “common-sense” legislation to protect fairness for female athletics. However, on April 17th, two families filed a lawsuit against the state to have the law taken down. Both families have a child identified as a transgender girl, with one being 11 years old and the other 15. The children wish to participate in their respective school’s female sports teams; however, the law prevents this from happening. The Plaintiffs claimed the children will suffer “irreparable emotional, psychological, and developmental harm” if the court did not prohibit Arizona from enforcing the law.
Nonetheless, the legislators still stand by the law and argue it should remain enforceable.
“Female athletes deserve equal opportunities in sporting events, which will not happen so long as males are allowed to compete against them,” said Petersen. “Science is clear that male athletes have many inherent physical advantages over females, including greater size, stronger muscles and larger bone structure. By allowing males to compete against females, we’re essentially subjecting young girls to greater risk of injury, as well as stripping them of athletic opportunities their female predecessors have long fought for.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: President @votewarren Takes Action to Defend the "Save Women's Sports Act" in Court
— AZSenateRepublicans (@AZSenateGOP) May 1, 2023
In the legislator’s new motion to intervene, which the Senate Majority Caucus emailed to reporters, they make a case for the court to allow them to defend the law. Under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedures, the court is to grant intervention if the motion is timely, the applicants have interests to protect through the outcome, and the existing parties would not adequately represent their interests. The lawmakers argue they check all three boxes.
Firstly, Petersen and Toma stated they were made aware Mayes would not be defending the law on April 21st, 2023, and “did not delay” in filing the motion afterward, making their action timely. Next, as creators of the law, the legislators stated they are interested in ensuring the law can be enforced. Additionally, they declared state legislators have intervened in recent cases involving Arizona’s rules, so they said this should be no different. Lastly, Petersen and Toma said they lacked adequate representation without Mayes defending the law.
Ultimately, they requested the court grant intervention or at least permissive intervention.
– – –
Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].