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Bill banning transgender women athletes from competition passes Idaho House

Posted: 4:33 PM, Feb 26, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-26 18:36:52-05

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho House Wednesday passed legislation preventing transgender women from participating in sports that align with their gender identity -- despite warnings that such a law is unconstitutional and uncertainties about how the NCAA might react.

It now goes to the GOP-dominated Senate. Republican Gov. Brad Little’s spokeswoman said he had no comment.

The legislation applies to all teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team would not be open to a student who was born male, even if they identify as female.

Backers say the law is needed because athletes who are genetically male have physical advantages over females. They say that allowing transgender women can limit female athletic, economic, and self-growth opportunities provided through sports.

The legislation’s “intent is to continue to protect girls and women in sports, and to provide those opportunities that we have had for almost the last fifty years,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt.

Opponents say it discriminates against transgender girls and women, and will subject female athletes to invasive tests so they can participate in sports. Anyone could challenge an athlete’s status, opponents said, requiring the tests.

Democratic Rep. Muffy Davis, a seven-time medalist in Paralympic Games, said it could limit female participation because of the tests.

“There is no one more passionate about protecting women’s sports that I am,” she said. “This restrictive bill is not the answer to protecting women’s sports.”

The NCAA, which governs major college athletics, disqualified North Carolina in 2016 from hosting championship events after lawmakers there passed a “bathroom bill” considered anti-transgender. Lawmakers later repealed the law, and the NCAA lifted its ban. The NCAA has a policy allowing transgender athletes to compete.

Ehardt called the NCAA policy “permissive.” She said her legislation would only apply to Idaho student-athletes, allowing transgender females from other states to compete in Idaho.

Some lawmakers appeared unconcerned with ramifications of a new law.

“We are the Legislature of the state of Idaho, and we have every right to make an effort to define policy,” said Republican Rep. Gary Marshall. “I don’t think that this body should be intimidated or threatened by things that are not necessarily clear or true.”

The Idaho attorney general’s office said the legislation could be unconstitutional and difficult to defend.

“This bill is unabashedly sex-based discrimination,” Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel told lawmakers.

A similar bill is advancing in the Arizona Legislature, and Ehardt said other states were considering following suit.

(by Keith Ridler, Associated Press)