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Federal Judge Halts Idaho's Controversial Transgender Athlete Law For Now

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the implementation of a law that bars transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams in Idaho that align with their gender identity.

The lawsuit was filed in April by a transgender Boise State University student who hopes to compete on the women’s track and cross-country teams. 

“This categorical bar to girls and women who are transgender stands in stark contrast to the policies of elite athletic bodies that regulate sports both nationally and globally,” Idaho District Court Judge David Nye wrote Monday.

A supermajority of Republican lawmakers remained in session amid the coronavirus pandemic in March to pass the bill, before Gov. Brad Little signed it into law later that month. It’s the first of its kind in the country.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office called the law “constitutionally problematic” shortly after it was introduced and five former attorneys general urged the governor to veto it.

The legislature also passed another law banning transgender people from changing the sex on their birth certificates, something Nye said could not be ignored.

“That the Idaho government stayed in session amidst an unprecedented national shut down to pass two laws which dramatically limit the rights of transgender individuals suggests the [law] was motivated by a desire for transgender exclusion, rather than equality for women athletes, particularly when the national shutdown preempted school athletic events, making the rush to the pass the law unnecessary,” he wrote.

Another federal judge last week found the birth certificate law violates her court ruling from two years ago banning such policies and statutes.

Under the transgender athlete law, trans girls and women would be banned from playing on a sports team that matched their gender identity at K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Anyone could question and challenge a student-athlete’s gender identity, including parents, classmates or school administrators. That athlete would then be forced to verify their gender through an “invasive” exam, according to Nye, or via expensive genetic or hormonal testing before they’re allowed to play again.

Any retaliation against someone making such a claim could be met with costly lawsuits.

The law does not apply to transgender boys or men.

“I feel a major sense of relief,” Lindsay Hecox, the transgender woman who brought the suit, said in a statement. “I’m a girl, and the right team for me is the girls’ team. It’s time courts recognize that and I am so glad that the court’s ruling does.” 

Nye’s ruling also allows two Idaho State University track athletes, who support the law, to intervene as defendants on behalf of the state in the case. Madison Kenyon and Mary Kate Marshall are both represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. 

That legal advocacy group is also challenging rules in Connecticut that allow transgender people to compete on teams that match their gender identity.

“I believe that allowing males to enter women’s sports defeats an entire aspect of sports: It eliminates the connection between an athlete’s effort and her success,” Kenyon said in a statement.

While Nye allowed the group to defend the law in the case, he blasted its misgendering of Hecox and other transgender athletes in its court briefings. He also slammed them for suggesting that Hecox won’t face irreparable harm from the law because she hasn’t threatened to commit suicide if she’s not admitted to Boise State’s team.

“[Their] attempt to twist the tragically high suicide rate of transgender individuals into a requirement that Lindsay must be suicidal to establish irreparable harm is distasteful,” Nye said.

Hecox’s lawsuit remains ongoing.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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