Idaho Gov. Signs Bill Barring Male Athletes from Women’s Sports

Governor Brad Little speaks in Washington, December 16, 2019.

Idaho governor Brad Little on Tuesday signed into law a bill preventing male athletes who identify as women from competing in state-funded female sports, as well as a bill prohibiting residents from changing their sex on their birth certificate.

The sports bill was sponsored by State Representative Barbara Ehardt, a Republican, who argued that the inclusion of transgender athletes who identify as female in women’s sports contradicted Title IX anti-discrimination rules. Title IX prohibits federally-funded education programs from discrimination based on sex, and as Ehardt and the bill’s supporters have pointed out, male athletes who identify as females retain a physical advantage when competing against biological females.

“As a former Division I athlete and Coach for 15 years, I am grateful to know that Idaho will continue to protect opportunities for girls & women in sports,” Ehardt told National Review. “I know firsthand that we simply cannot compete against the inherent physiological and scientifically proven advantages that boys and men possess, regardless of hormone usage.” Ehardt also thanked the governor for his support of the measure.

“Governor Little has had over a hundred bills on his desk these past ten days, so I am grateful that he joined with most all Republican legislators in supporting Title IX and protecting opportunities for girls and women in sports,” Ehardt said.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the law, saying it mandated invasive checks for a student’s gender if that gender was in any doubt.

“If House Bill 500 [on school sports] does become law, our organization is prepared to sue,” ACLU policy director Kathy Griesmyer commented.

The law prohibiting changing one’s sex on a birth certificate could face significant legal hurdles if enforced. A 2018 federal court ruling allows transgender individuals in Idaho to change their sex on their birth certificate.

“There’s an injunction that already absolutely forbids this policy, and the government can’t enforce this law without violating a court order,” said Peter Renn, an attorney with Lamda Legal who worked on the 2018 case. “The ramifications of contempt [of court] are quite furious.”

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