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Idaho Governor Signs Two Anti-Trans Bills Into Law

Brad Little

The bills bar student athletes from teams for the gender with which they identify and prevent residents from changing the gender on their birth certificates.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday signed two anti-transgender bills into law.

One bars transgender females from competing in interscholastic sports for girls and women at public schools and state colleges and universities. The other prevents residents from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates, defying a federal court order.

Legislation restricting trans students' sports participation has been introduced in several states, but Idaho is the first one where it has been passed by both houses of the legislature -- and now the first where it has been signed into law. Proponents of the bill and others like it saying trans girls have an inherent advantage over cisgender girls -- something that both activists and scientists dispute.

Tuesday was the last day for Little to either sign or veto the legislation, and he signed it Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reports.

The bill likely violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and privacy, in the opinion of the Idaho Attorney General's Office. It also may run afoul of the Constitution's interstate commerce clause because it would conflict with rules set by national sports organizations, the office's analysis noted. Opponents have also noted it may subject young people to invasive physical examinations because of language regarding proof of gender.

The gender marker bill conflicts with an order issued by a federal judge in 2018 that said Idaho cannot "automatically and categorically" prevent people from changing the gender on their birth certificates. It came in a case brought by two trans women against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, who said the policy of not allowing such changes violated their constitutional rights.

LGBTQ organizations quickly issued statements condemning the action by Little, a Republican, and some promised a legal challenge.

"Passing laws that single out and attacks trans people, and especially trans youth, at time when our world is grappling with an unprecedented global health crisis is irresponsible and wrong," said Kris Hayashi, executive drector of the Transgender Law Center. "Our local and federal government policies and actions must be focused entirely on keeping people safe and healthy, not advancing discrimination and deliberately causing harm."

"Our country is facing an unprecedented health crisis, and Gov. Little and members of the Idaho Legislature have prioritized attacking transgender student athletes with this discriminatory and unnecessary new law," said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. "State leaders should focus on protecting public health and safety, not on attacking vulnerable youth who want to play on a team with their peers. With so much suffering right now, Idaho is making sure trans kids suffer more."

"We are disappointed that Governor Little signed such an extreme and mean-spirited law," said Asaf Orr, the director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights' Transgender Youth Project. "HB 500 is a direct assault on the health and wellbeing of young transgender Idahoans, who already face enormous challenges. This is a heartbreaking day for these young people and their families, who have now been sent a toxic message of rejection and exclusion by elected officials in their own state. We stand with these families and will do all we can to support a legal challenge this hateful law."

"The ACLU will see the governor in court," said a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union's Idaho affiliate. "We encourage all Idahoans to email, call, and tweet Gov. Little to express outrage and disappointment at wasting precious taxpayer resources on blatantly anti-transgender bills at a time when we should be coming together for the health and wellbeing of our people."

"It is a sad day in the United States when lawmakers are more determined to stop trans young people from playing games than to provide them with the care, support, and opportunities they need to survive and thrive," added Sam Brinton, Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project. "The Trevor Project will actively fight these dangerous laws and we will continue to send a clear message to trans youth in Idaho and across the country that they deserve love and support, should be proud of who they are, and that they are never alone."

Lambda Legal, which represented the women who won the court ruling on birth certificates, noted that the policy signed into law today still violates the U.S. Constitution. "At each step of the legislative process, from this bill's introduction in the Idaho House, through the Idaho Senate, and on to the governor's desk, policymakers were fully aware that they were explicitly flouting a binding federal court order," said a statement issued by Peter Renn, a Lambda lawyer who worked on that case. "And the court could not have been clearer: This policy was unconstitutional two years ago, and it is still unconstitutional today. Idaho has deliberately set itself on a collision course with the federal courts. It is in open rebellion against the rule of law." Lambda has asked for anyone who suffers under this policy to contact the organization's help desk.

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