One day before the International Day of Transgender Visibility last Tuesday, Gov. Brad Little signed two historic transgender-related bills into law.
The most contentious among the two—the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act—was conceived by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, to preserve opportunities for female-born athletes by excluding students who identify as female despite being biologically male. Idaho is the first state in the country to enact such legislation.
The second bill signed into law forbids Idaho citizens from changing their gender markers on their birth certificates, a move that critics say specifically targets transgender people. Idaho follows two other states in passing that prohibition.
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, the first of its kind in the U.S., forbids transgender women and girls from competing as females on high school and collegiate teams and requires female athletes to consent to sex testing.
The sex evaluations are designed to detail female athletes’ reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup and testosterone levels. Critics, including the Trevor Project—a nonprofit focused on reducing suicide among LGBT people—and major companies like Chobani and Hewlett-Packard have called that stipulation, and its larger bill, unconstitutional.
“Instead of focusing on the escalating public health crisis that is COVID-19, Idaho lawmakers are focused on attacking transgender students,” Rob Todaro, press secretary of The Trevor Project, said in an email to the Mountain Express.
Ehardt and other Republican legislators, however, stressed that the bill was necessary to level the playing field. Transgender girls and women have an “inherent biological advantage” over their cisgender peers in terms of speed and endurance, they said.
“Boys and men should not be allowed to take away opportunities from girls and women, especially when federal monies are involved,” Ehardt previously wrote on her Facebook page.
According to NCAA policy, transgender female athletes in the U.S. can participate in women’s and girls’ teams if they complete one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment. But the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act has removed that requirement in Idaho, claiming that hormone treatment is not effective in reducing “muscle strength, size and composition in [female] transgender individuals.”
Before the bill was passed, Blaine County School District Communications Director Heather Crocker told the Express that if the act becomes law, the board of trustees would need to reconsider the district’s gender-inclusion policy.
“This would be done with opportunity for public input, as with all of the board’s policies,” she said.
It’s unclear when that reconsideration would happen.
As of press time Tuesday, the Governor’s Office had commented further.