The furious debate that enveloped Mack Beggs’ controversial girls wrestling state title in Texas is now headed for a two-pronged debate, with a county judge expected to rule on the validity of a lawsuit that would require the University Interscholastic League to allow Beggs to wrestle with boys at precisely the same time that the Texas state legislature weighs eliminating a safe harbor provision which made it possible for Beggs to compete against girls.
That aforementioned safe harbor provision has been the subject of much debate throughout Beggs’ preparation for the state meet and his eventual victory in the girls division. The logic behind those upset about the ruling holds that while Beggs was allowed to take a banned substance in the name of a medical use exemption, that still gave him an unfair advantage. Beggs and his grandmother argued throughout that his testosterone levels were always kept within the normal range for competition.
The judge in Travis County will be hearing a case from UIL that the lawsuit against Beggs and the state association — which was filed by Coppell lawyer Jim Baudhuin — lacks standing because of a laundry list of considerations. As captured by the Dallas Morning News, here’s why the UIL claims Baudhuin’s case should be thrown out:
-It is a government entity and protected by sovereign immunity. For that to be waived, the plaintiff must prove a government officer acted outside its legal authority. The UIL argues that it is following the rules laid out in the state education code.
-Gender dysphoria – the conflict between a person’s physical sex and the gender in which he or she identifies — is a mental disorder diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
-The lawsuit lacks standing. The plantiff in the case is Pratik Khandelwal, whose daughter wrestles for Coppell. The UIL argues Khandelwal’s daughter never suffered an actual or threatened injury. It also argued the 2016-17 regular season is finished, so the case is moot.
-The lawsuit is not “ripe.” The 2017-18 season has not started, and it’s impossible to determine if Khandelwal’s daughter and Beggs will wrestle, or even be enrolled in Texas public schools.
-The current law could be changed.
Without question, the UIL’s “Plea to the Jurisdiction” takes “the kitchen sink approach,” as put forward by Baudhuin to the Morning News. While Baudhuin’s case aims to make it impossible for Beggs to qualify under a safe harbor provision, the legislation introduced by suburban Dallas Republican state senator Bob Hall would give UIL more leverage to deliver a unilateral decision regardless of the current state education code.
In essence, Hall’s bill, “would also require any person seeking protection under the safe harbor provision to release medical records to the UIL and allow communication between the organization and the student’s healthcare professionals,” per the Morning News. Perhaps even more significantly, the UIL could declare any student athlete ineligible regardless of safe harbor laws if the state organization determines the safety of other competitors or the integrity of the competition.
For its part, the UIL is clearly not in open favor of the new legislation, as put forward by UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison.
“We can’t overrule state law,” Harrison told the Morning News. “We can’t change the steroid law any more than we can change the speed limit. We just don’t have that rulemaking authority.”