In the Midst of a Pandemic, Idaho Republicans Decide to Pass a Bill Targeting Trans Student Athletes

In the Midst of a Pandemic, Idaho Republicans Decide to Pass a Bill Targeting Trans Student Athletes
Photo: (Steven Pisano)

While the rest of us are more concerned these days with slowing the spread of a global pandemic, Idaho’s Republicans on Monday night showed where their priorities lie—passing legislation specifically aimed at banning the participation of trans girls in high school and college sports.

HB500, or the laughably named Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, calls on single-gender sports to be based on one’s sex assigned at birth, and expressly states that girls and women’s sports “shall not be open to students of the male sex.” How do Idaho Republicans plan on determining this? By demanding that students open themselves up to invasive genital exams as well as chromosomal and hormone testing.

If this seems cruel as well as unnecessary, it is. Idaho already has restrictive (and I would argue discriminatory) guidelines in place for the participation of trans athletes in high school sports, which require trans girls to have undergone hormone treatment for one year before being allowed to participate in girls sports. As Chris Mosier, a trans athlete and advocate, told the Idaho Statesman, HB500 “is intended to solve a problem that, quite frankly, does not exist.” He continued: “It seems like a colossal waste of time for people to be arguing about people’s identities, about my identity, about young people’s identity and putting all women and girls in a position that will be incredibly dangerous and driving many of them from sport.”

The House passed the bill by a wide margin, 52-17, at the end of February. Unsurprisingly, Barbara Ehardt, the Republican sponsor of the bill in the House, worked with the Alliance Defending Freedom when crafting the bill, and has defended the bill under the guise of “fairness.” Allowing boys and men to compete against girls and women shatters our dreams,” Ehardt said in an interview, before making the outlandish claim that “forcing girls and women to compete against biological boys and men has too often made us spectators in our own sports.”

The ACLU has already vowed to sue the state if Governor Brad Little signs HB500 into law. “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 ACLU of Idaho, in a statement. “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.”

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