By Jeff Taylor and Kate Sosin
On the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility and with a pandemic ravaging the nation, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed into law two landmark anti-transgender bills on Monday.
HB500 bars transgender student athletes from sports. It is the first bill of its kind ever passed into law. A string of similar measures have been introduced this year but failed to gain support. HB509 bans transgender people from updating their birth certificates.
The signing of both bills has sent shockwaves throughout LGBTQ communities. Little was expected to veto the measures after telling local media he was "not much of a discrimination guy."
HB500, titled the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” mandates that “Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls 14 shall not be open to students of the male sex.” Under the law, determination of gender must come from a “signed physician's statement that shall indicate the student's sex based solely on” the individual’s “internal and external reproductive anatomy, normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone, and an analysis of the student's genetic makeup.”
It includes language “protecting” educational institutions from complaints, investigations, or any other “adverse action” as a result of following the new law. It also offers schools and other institutions and organizations, as well as students, who feel they have been “subject to retaliation or other adverse action” due to “reporting a violation” of the new protocol “cause of action for injunctive relief, damages, and any other relief available under law.”
Much of the nationwide controversy around trans participation in sports has stemmed from the high-profile success of Connecticut track runners Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller. The two have sparked controversy over the fairness of transgender inclusion in sports.
Alex Schmider, GLAAD’s associate director of transgender representation, produced the documentary Changing the Game, which features Miller and Yearwood. He argues that many only notice transgender athletes when they win.
“Although medical experts, sport governing bodies, and Idaho’s major employers have spoken out against these two bills, Governor Little has instead sided with discrimination,” said Schmider in a media statement. “Now, more than ever, transgender people need to be supported, not subjected to state-sponsored discrimination and suffering.”
Advocates have argued that HB509, dubbed the "Idaho Vital Statistics Act,” violates a March 2018 ruling by a federal judge that struck down a similar bill, on the grounds that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The ACLU has vowed to sue over the bills.
"The ACLU of Idaho condemns Governor Brad Little's decision to sign discriminatory, unconstitutional, and deeply hurtful anti-transgender bills into law," the legal group said in a statement. "Leaders from the business, faith, medical, education and athletics communities will not forget this decision or what it says about the governor's priorities during a global pandemic."
Lambda Legal has argued that like everyone else, trans people need accurate identity documents to navigate daily life.
Kara Inglehart, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, told NewNowNext earlier this year that “if your identity documents match your gender expression, you may not think twice about how often you use them or how essential they are. Birth certificates are the fundamental identity document—you use them to obtain other forms of identity documents like driver’s licenses or passports.”
LGBTQ organizations across the nation roundly criticized Little for making Idaho less navigable for transgender people as world confronts the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are living in an unprecedented global health crisis, with confirmed cases of COVID-19 increasing on a daily basis in Idaho, across the United States and around the world, but Governor Brad Little and the Idaho legislature have decided to prioritize the demonization of transgender people,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement.
In a media statement, the Trevor Project reported that 78% of trans youth said they experienced discriminatation due to their gender identity and that more than half had considered suicide in the last year.
“It is a sad day in the United States when lawmakers are more determined to stop trans young people from playing games than to provide them with the care, support, and opportunities they need to survive and thrive,” said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project.