March 19, 2020 at 10:38 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Idaho legislature sends anti-trans bills to governor’s desk
Idaho, gay news, Washington Blade
Idaho Capitol dome (Photo by Eric Hunt; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

As the nation continues to reel from the coronavirus, the Idaho legislature has sent a pair of anti-trans bills to the desk of its governor, one aimed barring transgender youth from participating in sports, the other seeking transgender people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Both bills were given final approval in the Idaho legislature and sent to the desk of Idaho Gov. Brad Little. Transgender rights are urging him to veto the legislation, or, if not, threatening the substantial costs of litigation.

One bill, known as House Bill 500 and the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” states high school athletic teams or sports designated for women or girls “shall not be open to students of the male sex.”

Moreover, in the event of a dispute over whether an athlete is transgender, the participant would be required to present a physician’s statement that would establish sex based on “the student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; the student’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone; and an analysis of the student’s genetic makeup.”

Sen. Mary Souza, R-(Coeur d’Alene), the bill’s co-sponsor in the Senate said the legislation is necessary because girl athletes “deserve a fair chance,” but Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise) called HB 500 a “repugnant” bill “rooted in fear and misinformation,” according to East Idaho News.

If Little signs the legislation into law, it will be the first state law of its prohibiting youth from participating in high school sports.

Kathy Griesmyer, policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said in a statement HB500 “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.”

“Idaho has not seen any issues with trans girls competing in the girls sports,” Griesmyer said. “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.”

The other bill, known as House Bill 509 of the “Idaho Vital Statistics Act,” prohibits any changing of the gender marker on a birth certificate from sex assigned at birth “only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.” That would make it impossible for transgender people to change the document to reflect their gender identity.

Idaho State Rep. Julianne Young, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement that “safeguarding the accuracy of our vital records is a vital part of preserving the ability of the state to protect the public health and safety,” according to CNN.

The legislation appears to defy a court order in 2018 requiring Idaho to allow transgender individuals to change the gender marker on the birth certificates.

Peter Renn, counsel for Lambda Legal, was a member of the legal team that secured the court order said HB509 flies in the face of that directive.

“Idaho lawmakers might as well try to tear down the federal courthouse if they have this much contempt for the rule of law,” Renn said. “They are explicitly defying a court order and exposing Idaho taxpayers to footing the bill for significant financial consequences – all while putting transgender people back in harm’s way for harassment and even violence, and once again making Idaho a national outlier.”

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with Little’s office seeking comment on the bill.

With respect to HB500, the Idaho Attorney General has issued an opinion saying the measure raises equal protection concerns, but stopped short of saying the bill is unconstitutional. In a joint letter, five former Idaho attorneys general have called on Little to veto the legislation.

Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said in a statement the decision to move forward with the anti-trans legislation amid a global pandemic is “shameful.”

“Our elected officials should be expanding opportunities for trans students, not further marginalizing a group already at high risk for bullying and discrimination,” Brinton said. “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.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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