The Idaho Senate is considering a bill aiming to bar transgender girls and women from competing as females in high school and collegiate sports, following the bill’s passage through the House of Representatives last month.
If it becomes law, the bill will “preserve opportunities” for female-born athletes—in the words of bill creator Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls—and effectively close the door to students who, despite being biologically male, identify as female.
The reasoning behind House Bill 500, dubbed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, is that transgender women have an inherent biological advantage over cisgender women in terms of speed and endurance.
“Boys and men should not be allowed to take away opportunities from girls and women, especially when federal monies are involved,” Erhardt wrote on her Facebook page.
Currently, as per NCAA policy, transgender athletes in Idaho can participate in women’s and girls’ teams if they complete one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment. The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which would remove that status quo, argues that hormone treatment is not effective in reducing “muscle strength, size and composition in (male-to-female transgender) individuals.”
If the bill goes into law, athletes scrutinized for their gender would need to complete a physical exam detailing their reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup and testosterone levels. Both the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and District 26 legislators Muffy Davis, D-Ketchum, and Sally Toone, D-Gooding, say that requirement is discriminatory.
“This bill will not protect women’s sports. In fact, it could potentially harm many female athletes who might be forced to ‘prove’ they are in fact biologically female, not to mention the offenses and restrictions it places on female trans athletes,” Davis and Toone stated in a District 26 newsletter.
On Feb. 26, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act passed 52-17 in the House, with Davis and Toone joining 12 other House Democrats and three Republicans to oppose the bill. Davis and Toone also voted “nay” on another transgender-related bill last month—House Bill 509—which, if passed by the Senate, will make it illegal for transgender Idahoans to change the gender listed on their birth certificates.
“[Bills 500 and 509] could be classified as attacks on the transgender community and individuals,” the District 26 newsletter stated.
In August 2016, the Blaine County School District adopted a gender-inclusion policy allowing students to use restroom facilities and join sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. The policy—which also applies to district employees, teachers and parents on school grounds or at school-related events—additionally grants transgender and gender-nonconforming students the right to be addressed by their preferred name and pronoun, stay with gender-similar groups on school excursions and keep their gender status private at school.
“Transgender and gender nonconforming students shall be allowed to participate in interscholastic sports,” the BCSD policy states. “Each student shall be granted access to restrooms, locker rooms and changing areas that align with the student’s gender identity consistently asserted at school.”
School District Communications Director Heather Crocker said Thursday that if Idaho law changes, the board of trustees may need to reconsider parts of the policy.
“This will be done with opportunity for public input, as with all of the board’s policies,” she said.