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Law & Justice

9th Circuit Hears Case Over Idaho's Transgender Athlete Ban

Lindsay Hecox
Lindsay Hecox
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Monday heard a case involving an Idaho law banning transgender females from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. Lindsay Hecox was one of the plaintiffs in the original case.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals took up a case Monday involving an Idaho law banning transgender girls and women from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Transgender boys and men, as well as girls and women are allowed to play on male sports teams under the law.

Last August, a federal judge in Idaho issued a preliminary injunction to block the law. In his opinion, Judge David Nye said the law set a “categorical bar” contrary to national and international sporting groups that allow transgender girls and women to compete with other females.

The Idaho High School Activities Association previously required transgender female athletes to undergo hormone treatment for one year before they would be eligible to play. The NCAA has a similar policy.

The International Olympic Committee requires athletes maintain a certain level of testosterone for at least one year in order to be eligible, though those standards could change after the 2021 Tokyo summer games.

The state and two female runners at Idaho State University, who are defending the law, appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit.

On Monday, they argued the law doesn’t discriminate against trans females. Instead, they said boys and men have distinct athletic advantages and shouldn’t be allowed to compete with girls and women.

Judge Kim Wardlaw repeatedly asked how the law isn’t discriminatory, since it would only apply to transgender females. Deputy Attorney General Scott Zanzig told her to “not get bogged down in the verification process” outlined in the law that an athlete would have to use to prove their gender.

That process requires an athlete to get a healthcare provider to assess their reproductive anatomy, test their genetic makeup or check their testosterone levels to show they’re biologically female.

Anyone could question an athlete’s gender at any time under the law and the accuser would be protected from retaliation.

Chase Strangio, an attorney for the ACLU representing former Boise State University student Lindsay Hecox, who’s transgender, said the law clearly targets trans females and violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Judge Andrew Kleinfeld questioned whether the case was moot, since Hecox didn’t make the Boise State track or cross-country teams and later dropped out of school.

Strangio said Hecox plans to reenroll this fall and will try again to make the teams.

Kleinfeld also questioned whether another, anonymous plaintiff had standing to bring the case in the first place last year. Known as Jane Doe, the high school student in Boise said she feared having to prove her gender and undergo invasive and potentially expensive testing if she continued to play school sports.

The three-judge panel will rule on the appeal in the coming weeks.

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

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