Despite Pandemic, Idaho Passes Ban on Trans Student Athletes

Idaho has at least seven coronavirus cases, but lawmakers took aim at trans kids.

While most gatherings nationwide have ceased in response to the coronavirus, the Idaho Senate of 35 people met on Monday and voted to strip trans youth of the right to participate in high school athletics.

Idaho House Bill 500, also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Brad Little.

HB 500 passed overwhelmingly in the House in February. The House, comprised of 70 members, also swiftly approved a Senate amendment to the bill, sparking public outcry over the bill and the size of the gathering in the midst of the pandemic.

The bill bars transgender student athletes from competing on teams as the gender they identify, defaulting to sex assigned at birth. It has been widely criticized by LGBTQ rights advocates.

Chris Mosier, the first trans man to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials, traveled to Idaho to protest the bill.

On Monday, transgender advocates condemned the measure as a dangerous precedent for trans youth. Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said in a statement that trans youth simply want to play sports like other youth.

“Should this bill be signed into law, schools would be required to single out trans youth—who already experience high levels of bullying and harassment in schools—for further harassment or even violence,” Hayashi said.

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized Idaho lawmakers for targeting the transgender community as the world faces an unprecedented pandemic.

“At a time when our country needs everyone to come together and support one another, we should not be targeting transgender youth with unnecessary and illegal legislation,” said Heng-Lehtinen in a statement. “Idaho has policies in place already. We need our leaders to focus on serious issues of public health and safety and work to bring people together, not divide us.”

Idaho HB 500 is among 50 anti-transgender bills pending in state legislatures across the nation, according to a legislative tracker by Freedom for All Americans. However, many legislatures have halted session due the coronavirus pandemic.

Idaho Governor Brad Little is expected to veto HB 500 after commenting that he is “not a big discrimination guy.”

Chase Strangio, a transgender lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, promised that if Little signs the measure, the ACLU will sue.