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Idaho Senate Passes Transgender Athlete Ban

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Sen. Mary Souza (R-Coeur d'Alene) is one of the sponsors of a bill to ban transgender girls and women from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The Idaho Senate has backed a bill that would forbid transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.


The 24-11 vote came amid a flurry of activity as state senators took up a long list of bills before they gavel out of session for the year.


According to the Idaho Press, Sen. Mary Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene), one of the bill’s sponsors, told her colleagues that taxpayers would not be on the hook if the state is sued over its enactment, as it would be picked up by a “third-party group that has been working with us…”


An opinion written by the state attorney general’s office called the proposal “constitutionally problematic” for several reasons, including that it would treat transgender girls and women differently than others.


It also found the measure could violate federal law surrounding interstate commerce, since sports authorities like the NCAA would have separate sets of rules for college athletics in different parts of the country.


The NCAA, and the Idaho High School Activities Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, both require transgender girls and women to undergo hormone therapy for at least one year in order to be eligible to play.


Souza and the bill’s other co-sponsor, Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls), had amended a controversial part of the bill. It would have required an “invasive” pelvic exam, according to physicians who testified against the bill, if an athlete were accused of being transgender. They also would’ve had to submit to other medical testing to “prove” their gender.


Under the amended bill, student-athletes would only need a doctor to look at their “reproductive anatomy,” or run genetic or hormonal tests.


Supporters have said there isn’t a problem in Idaho with transgender athletes edging out others for championships and scholarships – yet – but they have said they want to be proactive in preventing those scenarios.


Opponents have blasted the bill for weeks, saying it marginalizes one of the smallest minorities which is already predisposed to public harassment and suicidal tendencies.


Three Republicans, Sens. Jim Guthrie (R-McCammon), Dan Johnson (R-Lewiston) and Abby Lee (R-Fruitland) joined all eight Democrats in voting against the measure.


The House must approve the amendment before it goes to Gov. Brad Little’s (R) desk.

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. If you have a tip, please get in touch!