Transgender athlete bill passes the House - East Idaho News

Transgender athlete bill passes the House

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BOISE — A bill banning transgender athletes from competing on teams that don’t coincide with their sex at birth passed the Idaho House on Wednesday.

Despite a letter from the Idaho Attorney General’s office questioning the constitutionality of the bill, Rep. Barbara Ehardt’s, R-Idaho Falls, Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, HB 500, passed the House with a vote of 52 for and 16 against. The bill now goes to the Senate Education Committee for debate.

“This is about preserving opportunities for girls and women, opportunities that first came to light in 1972 with a federal law called Title IX,” Ehardt said during Tuesday’s hearing.

House Democrats strongly debated against the bill. The Idaho Joint Democratic Caucus is calling the bill “Child Genital Exploration Legislation,” according to a news release from the caucus.

“All athletes should have the opportunity to participate in the sports that best align with their gender,” said Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise. “This discriminatory legislation only serves to eliminate opportunities for young girls to participate in sports and further disenfranchise and endanger an already vulnerable population.”

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Ehardt said during the hearing that allowing transgender girls and women to compete in women’s sports goes against Title IX.

“I have reaped the benefits of Title IX. Others in here have too. It is important that we protect that,” Ehardt said.

Title IX reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Ketchum, said she has benefited from Title IX and is a seven-time Paralympic medalist and sits on prominent boards in the sports field.

“House Bill 500 will not protect women’s sports,” Davis said. “In fact, it could potentially harm many female athletes who might be forced to prove that they are in fact, biologically female, not to mention the offenses and restrictions that it places on female trans athletes.”

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, spoke up in favor of the bill.

“The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition. Restrictions on participation are appropriate to the extent that they are necessary and proportionate to the achievement of that objective,” Crane said.

A letter from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office says the bill is problematic in several ways, including possibly violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The attorney general also said disputes about an athlete’s sex could lead to harassment and determining an athlete’s sex due to a dispute is an invasion of privacy.

Ehardt told the bill allows for none-invasive methods of determining sex.

“Blood and urine tests are common and not invasive. A genetic swab of the cheek is not invasive either, and none of these cost very much,” Ehardt said.

She said the Idaho High School Activities Association already asks biology-related questions such as what the individual’ sex is, what medications they are taking and, for women and girls, when their first period was.

“Again, this is about opportunities for girls and woman and preserving that which we hold so dear,” Ehardt said in her closing statements Tuesday.

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