Legislation about student athletics has unseated so-called “bathroom bills” as the new front for battles over transgender students’ rights in state legislatures.
Idaho became the first state in the country to prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ school sports after Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, signed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” into law Tuesday.
The new Idaho law is part of a much larger pattern as state lawmakers around the country consider overriding policies by state athletics associations that allow transgender students to compete on teams that align with their gender identity.
The Trump administration recently filed a statement of interest in a Connecticut lawsuit, seeming to agree with the core tenet of the state legislation: that it’s unfair to require cisgender girls to compete against their transgender peers.
The new law requires sports teams to be “expressly designated” based on “biological sex.”
“If disputed, a student may establish sex by presenting a signed physician’s statement that shall indicate the student’s sex based solely on: (a) The student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; (b) The student’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone; (c) An analysis of the student’s genetic makeup,” the bill signed by Gov. Little says.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, told KTVB that the restrictions are important to protect progress in women’s sports.
“Allowing boys and men to compete against girls and women shatters our dreams,” Ehardt said. “Forcing girls and women to compete against biological boys and men has too often made us spectators in our own sports.”
But transgender rights advocates called the bill blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional. Those groups have argued that transgender students rights to play on teams and use facilities that match their gender identity are protected under the anti-sex discrimination protections in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal civil rights law.
“Public officials must not allow transgender students to be targeted for political gain or in the service of a radical anti-LGBTQ agenda,” Eliza Byard, the director of GLSEN, an advocacy group for LGBTQ students, said in a statement about the Idaho bill. “In this time of national trauma and crisis, we need them to pursue policies that increase connection and community, and support all students.”
Civil rights groups also expressed concern that cisgender students who don’t meet traditional gender norms may be forced to undergo an exam to prove their gender, a violation of their constitutional rights.