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Politics & Government

Transgender Athlete Ban Bill Sails Through Idaho House

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Rep. Barbara Ehardt's (R-Idaho Falls) bill would ban transgender women athletes from competing in a sport that aligns with their gender identity.

A bill that would ban transgender women from competing on teams that align with their gender identity is heading for the Idaho Senate.

House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure 52-17 Wednesday, with three Republicans breaking ranks to oppose the bill with each Democrat.

Rep. Muffy Davis (D-Ketchum) – a four-time Paralympic medal winner – calls herself a champion of women’s sports. Slapping down this bill, Davis said, would not jeopardize any girl or woman’s place on a podium.

“But passing it most certainly will cause irreparable harm to an already fragile and marginalized community and will hurt Idaho students,” she said.

The Idaho attorney general’s office called the proposal “constitutionally problematic” in a nine-page opinion released Tuesday. Democrats promised taxpayers will bankroll losing lawsuits trying to defend it.

“This would be struck down, there is no doubt in my mind. There is just no way to establish a pressing need for such a broad and absolute prohibition on trans female athletes to participate,” said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), a Harvard-educated lawyer.

Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) sponsors the bill and says there will be court challenges, but they’ll come if Idaho doesn’t implement this ban.

“These lawsuits will be coming from the parents of those girls whose opportunities have been displaced by biological boys and men. Make no mistake about it,” Ehardt said.

Parents of three athletes in Connecticut have filed a federal lawsuit to halt two high school transgender runners from competing at girls’ track meets.

Terry Miller, one of the transgender girls named in the suit, came in third place at the Connecticut state track championship last Saturday behind first place finisher Chelsea Miller. Miller and her mother are part of the group that brought the lawsuit.

Ehardt wore a Nike lapel pin on her suit jacket during the nearly 90-minute debate. The multibillion-dollar global sports brand sponsors LGBTQ athletes, including Chris Mosier, a transgender man who’s the first person to qualify for an Olympic trial that aligns with their gender identity.

Ehardt has insisted that blocking transgender girls and women from these sex-segregated teams is a matter of creating fair competition. She said those who are born “biologically male” have unfair physical advantages over “biological females.”

“You see, in sports we have requirements. We have standards and it is not based on feelings and … we have these in order to participate to ensure fairness for all,” she said.

The legislation wouldn’t apply to transgender boys and men.

Those competing on girls’ and women’s sports teams in public schools or at colleges and universities in Idaho would have to verify their gender through what LGBTQ advocates call “invasive” genital exams, as well as blood and chromosomal testing.

Anyone could contest an athlete’s gender and the burden of proof would be on them to pay for such testing to be reinstated on a team.

The bill is at odds with existing policy used by the Idaho High School Activities Association and the National Collegiate Athletics Association, or NCAA.

Both groups allow transgender athletes to participate on teams that align with their gender identity. Transgender women must undergo one year of testosterone suppressing drugs in order to qualify.

In a statement, the NCAA said it’s monitoring the situation.

“We have established policy and guidance to ensure transgender student-athletes have fair, respectful and legal access to collegiate sports participation. Through those policies, we create inclusive and equitable athletics opportunities for all student-athletes,” it said.

Boise State University, Idaho State University, Northwest Nazarene University and University of Idaho are all NCAA member schools.

The Idaho Senate will consider Ehardt’s bill next.

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

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