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ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Idaho's Ban on Transgender Athletes

Lindsay Hecox files suit against Idaho law signed by Gov. Brad Little banning transgender athletes in public schools sports

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal complaint in Boise on behalf of two student athletes protesting Idaho’s recently signed law that bars transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports at the state’s public schools and universities.

The controversial House Bill 500, titled the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, also codifies invasive “sex verification” requirements in certain cases that have alarmed critics and civil rights experts. Gov. Brad Little (pictured) signed the bill into law on March 30, making Idaho the first state in the country to place an outright ban on transgender athletes in scholastic athletics.

“We’re suing because HB 500 illegally targets women and girls who are transgender and intersex and subjects all female athletes to the possibility of invasive genital and genetic screenings,” Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a press release. “In Idaho and around the country, transgender people of all ages have been participating in sports consistent with their gender identity for years. Inclusive teams support all athletes and encourage participation — this should be the standard for all school sports.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of Lindsay Hecox, 19 (pictured), a transgender track athlete at Boise State University, and an unnamed 17-year-old cisgender student at Boise High School concerned about the bill’s sex verification requirements. Both Hecox and the unnamed student identify as female.

“I just want to run with other girls on the team,” Hecox, who hopes to run track for BSU, said in the press release. “I run for myself, but part of what I enjoy about the sport is building the relationships with a team. I’m a girl, and the right team for me is the girls’ team.”

Equally concerning as the outright ban on transgender athletes are the invasive sex verification requirements when a student athlete’s gender is “disputed.” In such cases, the law states that “a student may establish sex by presenting a signed physician's statement that shall indicate the student's sex based solely on: The student's internal and external reproductive anatomy; The student's normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone; and an analysis of the student's genetic makeup.”

The lawsuit was quick to call out the shameful milestone of the new law when it noted the state is now alone in banning transgender athletes, and that “no elite athletic body regulating sports nationally or globally — such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association ('NCAA') or the Olympics — has such a categorical bar.”

The suit also denounced the alarming nature of the sex verification requirements in the law.

“No other state or sports regulatory body with a policy addressing the participation of transgender and intersex athletes utilizes (as Idaho now will) intrusive genital examinations or chromosomal testing to restrict participation in women’s sports. Idaho now stands alone in imposing the threat of unwanted, medically unnecessary invasions to bar and chill participation in women’s and girls’ athletics,” it says.

HB 500 was originally introduced in the Idaho legislature by Rep. Barbara Ehardt. The two-term Republican represents the Idaho Falls area and is also a former women’s basketball coach at California State University, Fullerton.

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