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Idaho passes anti-trans sports bill, now governor must decide

Idaho passes anti-trans sports bill, now governor must decide

  • While most legislatures focused on coronavirus, the US state of Idaho had other ideas.
Brad Little

Both chambers of the Idaho legislature have passed a bill barring transgender women and girls from girls’ interscholastic sports.

Now it has reached the desk of Idaho Governor Brad Little, a Republican. And he must choose whether to sign or veto it.

House Bill 500 is called the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sport Act’. However, in reality it prevents trans women and girls from participating in female sports at public schools, state colleges and universities in Idaho.

It also attacks intersex young people’s ability to take part in sport, as the law will also cover them.

Similar bills have appeared in other states. But Idaho is the first place where both the House and Senate have voted them through.

If the governor signs it, trans female athletes will have to go to the doctor for a genital exam or DNA test to prove to the state they are a woman.

Moreover, some opponents warn it could mean people carrying out invasive genital examinations even on cisgender girls to prove they are not trans.

The legislation says schools ‘may verify the student’s biological sex as part of a routine sports physical examination’.

Meanwhile opponents have said it’s not only bad for young people but based on bad science.

The bill argues that men inherently have ‘denser, stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments’ and ‘larger hearts, greater lung volume per body mass’ and so on.

However, many of the advantages male athletes have are based on their hormones. Trans athletes taking female hormones will lose the edge testosterone gives men.

Moreover, the issue hasn’t come up in Idaho in practice. Currently no openly trans or intersex athletes are competing in the state.

‘I’m not a big discrimination guy’

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said:

‘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.

‘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 they are 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.’

However, some do hope that Governor Little may refuse to sign. A big social media campaign has asked people in Idaho to tell him to veto the bill.

And he may listen. Before the bill formally landed on his desk he said:

‘I’m not a big discrimination guy. … Obviously, we have to comply with constitutional challenges.’

Moreover, he addressed similar bills in others states, saying:

‘Some of these are a reaction to things that are happening in other states that might not be quite that applicable here in Idaho. But I haven’t seen the details of it.’

Indeed, even if it did pass, it may be that female athletes could challenge it in court as unconstitutional.