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What is a ‘Women’s Bill of Rights’ and is it necessary?

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and nine Republican AGs are calling for states to codify definitions of girl, woman and mother

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Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes speaks during the GOP State Convention at the Mountain America Exposition Center.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes speaks during the GOP State Convention at the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

Adam Fondren, for the Deseret News

As Utah defends a law banning transgender girls from playing girls sports in schools, Attorney General Sean Reyes joined nine Republican colleagues in urging states to adopt a “Women’s Bill of Rights.”

The document, sponsored by Independent Women’s Voice, Independent Women’s Law Center and Women’s Liberation Front, seeks to codify the “common” definitions of woman, girl and mother.

According to the groups, defining those words would ensure that state and federal laws recognize there are legitimate reasons to distinguish between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons or other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, locker rooms, restrooms, and other areas where biology, safety, and/or privacy are implicated.

Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak signed the Women’s Bill of Rights legislative pledge this week.

“As women who have been fighting glass ceilings, all progress is lost when what it means to be a woman is questioned. The current effort to negate who we are as women undermines our irreplaceable gifts and contributions to society and ignores the unique challenges we face,” she said in a statement.

This year, the Utah Legislature passed HB11, which bans transgender girls from competing on girls’ teams at public schools. In the event of a lawsuit, however, the law defaults to a commission that would evaluate transgender students’ eligibility to play.

In May, ACLU of Utah and other advocacy groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of two transgender girls who attend public schools challenging the Utah law, alleging it is discriminatory and unconstitutional. 

“The law ... singles out transgender girls in order to exclude them from girls’ sports. It bars every transgender girl from competing on a girls’ team regardless of her medical care or individual circumstances,” according to the ACLU.

Last month, a judge granted a preliminary injunction stopping the law from taking effect while the court considers the lawsuit. Reyes’ office is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch was the first attorney general to support the Women’s Bill of Rights.

“Feminism, once understood as the way to promote equality for women, is today disintegrating in an identity crisis of its own making,” she said in a statement.

“But it is not only legitimate for women to have a space of their own in which to grow and thrive, it is good for society to carve out that safe space for women to engage with one another in athletics, education, fellowship, and sometimes even in healing.”

The document defines the terms “sex,” “woman,” “female,” and “mother” for purposes of state and federal law. It outlines biological differences “that warrant the creation of separate social, educational, athletic, or other spaces in order to … allow members of each sex to succeed and thrive.”

“When it comes to sex, ‘equal’ does not mean ‘same’ or ‘identical’” and “separate is not inherently unequal,” according to the bill.

In addition to Fitch and Reyes, Republican attorneys general in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia support the document.

Two GOP-sponsored resolutions in Congress would establish a bill of rights for women to reaffirm legal protections afforded to women under federal law.