The U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest Friday in the lawsuit filed against Idaho after Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law that would ban transgender women from participating in female sports.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr weighed in on the lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Idaho, by issuing a public statement. Barr, appointed by President Donald Trump, claims the Constitution does not require Idaho to provide the “special treatment … under which biological males are allowed to compete against biological females if and only if the biological males are transgender.” The lawsuit revolves around a bill pitched by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, that would make Idaho the first state to outright ban intersex and transgender women and girls from participating in female sports at public schools, colleges and universities.
Ehardt’s bill has been dubbed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, with conservatives claiming transgender women have an unfair advantage over biological female athletes.
Under Idaho House bill 500, a girls or women’s team would not be open to students who were born as male, even if they identify as female. The bill does not apply to transgender students wanting to participate in boys or men’s sports. The GOP-led Legislature passed the bill, despite an Idaho Attorney General’s Office analysis that found it possibly unconstitutional and open to legal challenge.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit, Lindsay Hecox v. Little, after Little signed the bill. Hecox is a transgender woman and student at Boise State University who hoped to try out for the Boise State cross country team in August. The lawsuit also defends a 17-year-old transgender girl who hoped to try out for Boise High School’s soccer team.
“Allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports is fundamentally unfair to female athletes” Barr said in the statement Friday. “Under the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause allows Idaho to recognize the physiological differences between the biological sexes in athletics. Because of these differences, the Fairness Act’s limiting of certain athletic teams to biological females provides equal protection. This limitation is based on the same exact interest that allows the creation of sex-specific athletic teams in the first place – namely, the goal of ensuring that biological females have equal athletic opportunities. Single-sex athletics is rooted in the reality of biological differences between the sexes and should stay rooted in objective biological fact.” Barr’s statement comes just days after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a historic decision, announcing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace. Prior to the court’s decision, LBGTQ Idahoans could be legally fired solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The statement also comes amid criticism from the NCAA, which has publicly condemned Idaho’s transgender athlete bill. The new law could jeopardize Boise State’s ability to continue as a host for first- and second-round games in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The NCAA Board of Governors is scheduled to discuss the legislation and its implications in August.
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