A pair of controversial bills sponsored by local lawmakers have failed in utterly predictable—and repeatedly predicted—fashion.
House Bill 509, sponsored by Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, prevents transgender Idahoans from obtaining a birth certificate matching their gender, subjecting them to the possibility of ridicule when they need to present identifying documents that don’t match their appearance or self-experience. The bill essentially reestablished a set of rules that had already been ruled unconstitutional.
House Bill 500, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, bans transgender women and girls entirely from playing in high school or college female sports. It also subjects women and girls to intrusive inspections if their biological sex is challenged—inspections boys and men are not subject to. For this reason, it was obvious from the moment it was proposed that the bill would run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause.
Most Republican lawmakers supported both bills, and Gov. Brad Little signed them.
They could perhaps be forgiven for undertaking unconstitutional acts if this was some unsettled, unpredictable area of the law. But it isn’t. They were warned repeatedly of the obvious outcome. The ACLU warned them. Major employers warned them. The Idaho Attorney General warned them. The press warned them.
But the officials who supported these bills proved impervious to reason and ignorant of the Constitution.
In exactly the predicted fashion, federal courts blocked both bills in recent weeks. HB 509 has been found to violate a permanent injunction, originally issued on constitutional grounds, that requires the state to allow transgender people to obtain birth certificates matching their gender identity. HB 500 was found likely to be unconstitutional, and the state has been enjoined from enforcing it pending a full hearing.
So in practice, neither transgender women athletes nor the broader transgender community will be blocked from doing the things they had before— participating in sports after meeting requirements established by sports regulatory bodies and changing their birth certificates. But Idaho will rack up a few more losses in court, and taxpayers will likely be on the hook for hundreds of thousands in attorney fees.
The state’s track record in lawsuits over its anti-LGBTQ policies is well-known and costly. In its effort to defend its ban on same-sex marriage and its unsuccessful fight to keep a transgender inmate from receiving gender confirmation surgery, the state has spent nearly a million dollars in attorney fees and court costs. That’s your money swirling down the drain.
It also remains possible that the NCAA will move the initial rounds of the Division I men’s basketball tournament out of Idaho, costing businesses opportunities in the midst of a terrible recession.
All for the sake of expressing cultural disapproval for a small, vulnerable group of our neighbors.
What should Idaho voters conclude about the competence of their representatives in the Legislature? With a variety of pressing concerns, including an impending pandemic, the Idaho Legislature had to set priorities for its time. There appeared to be no time to prepare for the pandemic, for example, by expanding a contact-tracing infrastructure that has proven grossly insufficient.
But there was plenty of time to attempt to restrict the rights of transgender Idahoans.
The Democrats stood in universal opposition to HB 500 and HB 509, and there were standouts among the Republican caucus in both chambers—Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow; Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee; Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon; Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston; Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland; and Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle—who opposed HB 500. Two—Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg; and Rep. Linda Hartgen, R-Twin Falls—opposed HB 509.
The rest failed to make constitutional policy.
There are no victories in this exercise of legislating-as-culture-war, just tax dollars wasted in court and a lasting stain on our state’s reputation.
The Idaho Falls Post Register published this editorial on Aug. 23.