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Idaho Progresses Bill Banning Trans Athletes From Sports

Idaho Governor Brad Little.

The legislation is now going to Governor Brad Little, a Republican.

Both chambers of the Idaho legislature have now passed a bill that would bar transgender women and girls from competing in girls' interscholastic sports.

Similar bills have been introduced in several other states, but Idaho is the first where both the House and Senate have passed one. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 24-11 Monday after the House OK'd it last week, the Associated Press reports. Known as House Bill 500, it would prevent trans women and girls from participating in girls' sports at public schools and state colleges and universities in Idaho.

The Senate added some amendments to the bill, so it must go through some procedural votes in both chambers before going to Governor Brad Little, a Republican, for his signature, according to the AP. LGBTQ+ rights advocates are urging him to veto the measure when it reaches him.

This isn't the only anti-trans legislation being considered in the state. There are two other trans-related bills in the Idaho State Senate -- one would bar transgender people from changing their birth certificates and one that requires a doctor to sign off if a minor wishes to change their birth certificate.

"I have not seen them," Little said when asked about them all. "I'm not a big discrimination guy. ... Obviously, we have to comply with constitutional challenges."

"Some of these are a reaction to things that are happening in other states that might not be quite that applicable here in Idaho," he continued. "But I haven't seen the details of it." This leads some to believe that he would veto HB 500 but it is no guarantee.

"If HB 500 becomes law, Idaho will be the first state to have such a retrogressive, invasive and patently anti-transgender law on the books," said a statement issued by Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. "In states across the country, extreme lawmakers are targeting transgender youth and seeking to discriminate against them through any legislative vehicle possible. These elected officials and the groups backing them are proposing a 'solution' in search of a problem -- and using transgender kids as pawns to stoke division at a time when our elected leaders should be finding ways to unite us. If HB 500 becomes law, it will send a strong message to trans youth that they are less than their peers and not deserving of community and acceptance. We implore Governor Little and other legislative leaders to stand up and reject this discriminatory measure."

Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, put a call out on Twitter for asking people to encourage Little to veto the bill. Strangio vowed to sue if it was passed.

"This bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while slamming the door shut for transgender student athletes to fully participate in their school communities," said Kathy Griesmyer, policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. "Idaho has not seen any issues with trans girls competing in the girls' sports. This unconstitutional and mean-spirited bill prevents trans girls from finding community and self-esteem in sports and will certainly result in litigation to defend the civil rights of Idaho's transgender community."

"In the midst of a global pandemic, Idaho legislators are focused on singling out and excluding transgender student-athletes -- it is shameful," Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. "The Trevor Project condemns HB 500, an unfair and unnecessary bill, and urges Governor Little to reject it. Our elected officials should be expanding opportunities for trans students, not further marginalizing a group already at high risk for bullying and discrimination. At the Trevor Project, we hear from LGBTQ youth in crisis every day and we know that affirming trans youth in their identities is critical to their health and wellbeing. Denying trans youth the ability to participate in school sports, which have shown to have a positive effect on mental health, will increase the kind of social isolation and stigma that contributes to the risk of suicidality."

Opponents of the bill also warned it would mean cisgender girls would be subjected to invasive genital examinations. The legislation says schools "may verify the student's biological sex as part of a routine sports physical examination."

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has raised concerns about whether the measure would stand up to legal challenges. Five former state attorneys general published an open letter on the matter in Boise's Idaho Statesman Tuesday, saying it has "apparent conflict with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution" and "other provisions of federal law." They urged a veto as well.

Senator Mary Souza, the bill's chief Senate sponsor, said the Alliance Defending Freedom, a deeply anti-LGBTQ+ legal nonprofit, has agreed to defend the legislation in court and take responsibility for any associated costs, the Idaho Press reports.

RELATED | South Dakota's Bill to Punish Doctors Treating Trans Youth Just Died

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