Idaho Risks Becoming a More Hostile Place for the Transgender Community

BElatina Idaho transgender community

While the coronavirus crisis brings out the noblest in our species, there are places in the country that insist on using the smokescreen to continue to play along.

In Idaho, for example, Governor Brad Little signed and passed two laws last Monday that hinder the transgender community from accessing their full rights.

As reported by CNN, “One measure bans transgender girls from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams, while the other prohibits transgender people from changing their gender on Idaho birth certificates.”

Called House Bill 500 and House Bill 509, both laws discuss gender identity based on “reproductive anatomy and genetic makeup,” claiming “fairness” of opportunity for women in sports, and challenging a federal court ruling in 2018.

“Boys are boys and girls are girls,” State Senator Lee Heider said after the bills passed through the Senate two weeks ago. “No doctor, no judge, no Department of Health and Welfare is going to change that reality.”

For her part, Representative Barbara Ehardt, the sponsor of the bill, said she began working on it 20 months ago in an effort to “protect opportunities for girls and women,” the New York Times reported.

“We physically cannot compete against biological boys, we just cannot, and once those opportunities are lost, they are gone, you cannot get those back,” Representative Ehardt, a former college basketball player and N.C.A.A. Division I women’s basketball coach, said in a telephone interview with the media on Tuesday. “This could literally tear teams and communities apart.”

For their part, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have promised to wage a legal battle against both measures.

“The ACLU of Idaho condemns Governor Brad Little’s decision to sign discriminatory, unconstitutional, and deeply hurtful anti-transgender bills into law,” a statement said. “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. The ACLU will see the governor in court.”

“While the rest of the world is trying to solve our public health crisis, Idaho has prioritized creating a new public health problem for transgender people,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Kara Ingelhart said in a release.

Although same-sex relationships — including gay marriage — have been protected by state law since October 2014, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not banned, leaving open the possibility that the more than 30,000 members of the LGBTQ+ community in the state are at risk, as well as allowing the exploitation of legal loopholes when it comes to rights in sport.

However, according to NBC, about 40 bills were introduced this year across the U.S. targeting the transgender community. None of these bills have been enacted, and most have died.