PHOENIX, Arizona – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) held a press conference Wednesday detailing a new filing submitted in the lawsuit surrounding Arizona’s law, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” that prevents biological males from competing against women in school sports.

“This case turns on one crucial fact: can plaintiffs prove that pre-puberty boys have no sports advantage over girls? They cannot,” according to the brief, shared with reporters.

The lawsuit comes from two Arizona families who describe their children as transgender females. One, a Jane Doe, is 11 and attends Kyrene Aprende Middle School; this child has not taken puberty blockers. The other is Megan Roe, 15, who attends the Gregory School and has taken puberty-blocking medication. Both children want to participate in school sports on female teams but are prevented by the law. The plaintiffs argued the law violates Title IX because it discriminates based on sex.

However, the ADE argued that even at a young age, the biological differences between men and women will make a difference in sports. The department points to the expert testimony of Dr. Gregory Brown, a University of Nebraska professor who states that “a number of studies indicate that males’ athletic advantages over females begin before puberty, and may be apparent as early as six years of age.”

Based on examples of athletes born male winning in competitions against females, such as Lia Thomas, the ADE stated it wants to protect Arizona’s law to female athletes of any age never have to face an unfair disadvantage. The department also argued that the law does not violate Title IX because it does not discriminate based on sex but aims to treat all biological boys and girls fairly and equally by separating them in sports, regardless of gender identity.

The defendants requested the court allow them an additional 90 days to continue compiling evidence for this case and deny the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction against the law.

“I feel very deep sympathy for people who feel they were born in the wrong body, but I also believe that biological males should not compete against females because it’s unfair and it will ultimately undermine women’s sports,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) at the conference.

Horne was not the only one to speak at the conference. Joining him was Marshi Smith, the 2005 NCAA and Pac-10 Conference Women’s backstroke champion, who competed for the University of Arizona. Marshi said it was “shattering” for her and her teammates to see biological males competing against girls in swimming pools. She has since sent a joint letter featuring 44 other female athletes to the NCAA expressing concerns about allowing boys to compete against women. However, they have yet to receive a response.

Shawna Glazier, a competitive cyclist, shared that she had to compete against a male who identified as female and lost.

However, Marshi and her companions compete at a college level, while the students in question are far younger. One reporter asked Marchi if she believed that younger boys have the same advantages over younger girls at higher levels. In response, she said she has a four-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter and can personally see the differences in abilities between the two.

“I can only dream that my sever-year-old, whose currently in swim lessons, has the opportunity to compete in Arizona someday like I did,” Marshi said.

Horne said winning, in this case, is about more than protecting one law in Arizona. In his words, the plaintiffs are not represented by local attorneys but by “two very large New York law firms. It’s a national effort to change our culture.”

Horne is the only defendant, as Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) has refused to defend the law. State legislative leaders have attempted to intervene, but Horne said their motion is still pending, but the plaintiffs oppose the effort. Nonetheless, he said even by himself, he would do whatever was necessary to defend the law.

– – –

Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].