Tom Horne says the trans student athlete ban isn't an "LGBT issue."

Two students sued the state, arguing that their bodies haven't gone through the puberty that conservatives like Horne often say gives them an "unfair advantage." PLUS... a new "Eyes on the State"

Tom Horne says the trans student athlete ban isn't an "LGBT issue."
When Tom Horne was Arizona’s Attorney General, he worked alongside the Alliance Defending Freedom—classified as a hate group—to push the state’s ban on gay marriage. He now is saying he’s an LGBTQ+ ally, while also pushing false medical theories on trans kid. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Protesters gather outside to protest against national bans against trans students that have swept the nation, including Arizona. (Photo by Ted Eytan)

Last week, two student athletes filed a lawsuit against Arizona in an attempt to lift the state’s law that bans transgender students from participating in youth sports.

The bill, SB1165, was signed into law in March 2022, by then-Gov. Doug Ducey, and was the first in a spat of similar transphobic laws that swept the nation among state legislatures last year.

Arguments for the bill claimed incorrectly that student athletes, specifically trans girls, would have a “biological advantage” to other cisgendered girls on the team. There is no substantiated evidence by pediatrician groups or other medical doctors that support the claim trans students have any biological benefit to other students.

The two trans girls are unnamed in the lawsuit, and referred to as 11-year-old Jane Doe and 15-year-old Megan Roe.

The public and private schools where the two students want to play have stated they would allow the two athletes to play for the girls team, if it wasn’t for the ban currently in place.

Doe’s family is suing to give her the right to participate in soccer, basketball and cross-country when she enters middle school in the fall. Roe, a volleyball player, wants to join her friends and play on her school's volleyball team.

“I want to be able to play with my friends and to hopefully make new friends too. It hurts to know that some people want to keep me away from sports and from my friends,” said Doe.

The Gregory School, the private school where Roe attends, is a member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association and complies with its rules in order to be eligible to compete in interscholastic competitions. Before the ban was signed into law, the AIA permitted transgender girls to play on a sports team consistent with their gender identity on a case-by-case basis.

In the lawsuit, one of the family stated that because their daughter had not yet started puberty, she had not “experienced any of the physiological changes, including muscle development, that increased testosterone levels would cause in a pubescent boy.”

Roe has been on puberty-blocking medication and hormone therapy for several years. Because of the hormones, instead of developing muscles or increased testosterone levels, she has “developed many of the physiological changes associated with puberty in females.”

The lawsuit named State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, Superintendent of the Kyrene School District Laura Toenjes, the Kyrene School District, The Gregory School, and the Arizona Interscholastic Association as defendants in the case.

When pressed on how the Department of Education would respond to the lawsuit, a communications assistant for Horne said that he “does not view this topic or lawsuit as a LGBT issue.”

The representative stated, again incorrectly and without evidence, that it was “unfair to women who are competing with less muscle and bone mass.”

The representative also made claims that cisgendered women were being injured. The department would not provide any evidence or instances when that happened, though.

Horne’s representative also said that Horne was a strong proponent of LGBTQ+ rights. However, Horne on multiple occasions has denounced support for LGBTQ+ students, including during his campaign last year when he and his supporters argued that queer students shouldn’t have access to community-specific social services, calling them “groomer” services.

“Groomers” is a term that is used by conservative activists and politicians to gin up fear against LGBTQ+ people, similar to the scare tactics and language used against gay men in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Professional sports groups, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, have promoted trans student athletes, so long as certain medical thresholds exist. The state’s ban on transgender athletes doesn’t take into account any of the scientific evidence around measuring hormones.

“This policy allowed for determinations to be made on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure fairness and safety without unduly or unlawfully limiting inclusivity,” said Jeanne Woodbury of Equality Arizona told LOOKOUT, referring to the AIA policy. She said that out of the 12 students in the past decade who tried to play, only seven were accepted.

“Arguments against trans inclusion on the basis of developmental differences don’t hold water,” she said. “For trans students who are able to access gender affirming care during adolescence, some are able to avoid experiencing unwanted developmental differences from their cisgender peers.”

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Right now, Arizona has a shortage of 270,000 homes, a crisis of access and affordability that disproportionately harms the LGBTQ+ community.

While a large majority of non-LGBTQ+ adults own their own homes— 70.1%, according to the Williams Institute)—less than half of LGBTQ+ adults are home owners.

LGBTQ+ people who rent are also 28% more likely to move than non-queer renters, making the community even more vulnerable in a housing shortage. Queer people, especially the youth, are also more likely to experience housing insecurity and homelessness.

While there are many factors at play, the preponderance of evidence makes it clear that zoning is the main cause of Arizona’s housing shortage, and as long as housing supply remains drastically lower than demand, other positive reforms will be largely unable to address affordability. Right now, there are three active bills carrying forward research-based solutions to the housing crisis.

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