Appeals court keeps transgender athlete law on pause

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will continue to block Idaho’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” from taking effect while litigation over the law’s merits continues. The state law bans transgender women and girls from competing on female student athletic teams.

The ACLU and other organizations filed the lawsuit on behalf of Boise State University student Lindsay Hecox in 2020 after Idaho became the first state to legislate transgender participation in school sports. At least 20 states have since passed similar laws, several of which are also temporarily blocked by court injunctions.

“The Act bars all transgender women and girls from participating in, or trying out for, public school female sports teams at every age, from primary school through college, and at every level of competition, from intramural to elite teams,” a summary of the Ninth Circuit opinion reads. “It also provides a sex dispute verification process whereby any individual can ‘dispute’ the sex of any female student athlete in the state of Idaho and require her to undergo intrusive medical procedures to verify her sex, including gynecological exams. Male student athletes in Idaho are not subject to a similar dispute process.”

The ruling does not decide whether the law will ultimately stand. It only continues to prevent it from taking effect while the legal challenge continues to move through the federal court system.

“Today, we decide only the question of whether the federal district court for the District of Idaho abused its discretion in August 2020 when it preliminarily enjoined the Act,” the opinion said. “Because the Act subjects only women and girls who wish to participate in public school athletic competitions to an intrusive sex verification process and categorically bans transgender girls and women at all levels from competing… and because the State of Idaho failed to adduce any evidence demonstrating that the Act is substantially related to its asserted interests in sex equality and opportunity for women athletes, we affirm the district court’s grant of preliminary injunctive relief.”

Plaintiffs challenge the law on the grounds that it potentially subjects all female athletes to possible sex screenings and categorically excludes all transgender female athletes from participation. Two cisgender female athletes represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom joined the lawsuit in support of the legislation.

“Idaho’s [law and other states] not only target and discriminate against transgender women and girls but also discriminate against all women and girls. Idaho’s ban and all others like it are designed to alienate and stigmatize transgender people and we’ll never stop fighting until all transgender youth are given the equal playing field they deserve,” said ACLU Deputy Director for Transgender Justice Chase Strangio in a news release about the ruling.

West Bonner’s policy supports Fairness in Women’s Sports Act

West Bonner school district is resisting an appeals court ruling that supports blocking Idaho’s law that would have prevented transgender girls from participating on female student teams.

“In light of recent federal court rulings, the district is announcing its decision to prevent female athletes from competing against biological males in athletic competition,” the school district wrote in a press release.

Adopted on Aug. 16, school district policy 3289 shows their “commitment to maintaining a level playing field for female athletes,” according to the district’s press release.

“The district believes in providing an environment that empowers all students to engage in sports with integrity and fairness,” superintendent Branden Durst said. “We are fully committed to supporting and protecting our female athletes and ensuring that they have the chance to showcase their talents on a level playing field.”

The district supports the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which attempts to safeguard the integrity of women’s sports by ensuring that female athletes “have an equitable opportunity to compete and succeed.”

Logan Finney, Idaho Reports

Logan Finney, Idaho Reports

Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic.

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