Two female cross-country runners at Idaho State University are asking a federal judge to uphold Idaho’s ban on transgender women in female sports.
Idaho State University students Madison Kenyon, 19, and Mary Marshall, 20, filed court documents Tuesday asking to join a lawsuit over the transgender athletics ban.
Both student athletes say they’ve unfairly lost to a transgender female runner. Their lawyers argue the women deserve to have their concerns represented in the case, which will impact their athletic careers.
“Female defeat by a male athlete is uniquely demoralizing due to the elemental inequity involved,” lawyers wrote in a court brief.
Idaho became the first state to ban transgender female athletes in women’s sports in March, when Gov. Brad Little signed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” written by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, and Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene.
The legislation drew multiple protests from opponents who, among other things, argue the law opens the door to invasive physical exams if an athlete’s gender is in dispute.
Civil rights groups sued the state barely two weeks after Little signed the law, arguing that it violates the U.S. Constitution, as well as Title IX, a law that bans sex discrimination in education.
One plaintiff in the lawsuit is 19-year-old Lindsay Hecox, a transgender woman who had planned to try out for Boise State University’s cross-country team this fall.
“What I want to do is just run, have a team, have friends on the team supporting me,” Hecox said in a video posted by the American Civil Liberties Union. “There’s no vindictiveness there of me trying to take away girls’ scholarships or trophies or places. I just want to be one of them — I am one of them.”
Lawyers for Kenyon and Marshall argue that if civil rights organizations overturn the Idaho law it would “leave (Kenyon and Marshall), and other female athletes, defenseless to male participation in their sports competitions.”
Kenyon and Marshall argue that athletes who were born male have physical advantages that make the competition unfair, and that allowing transgender females into women’s sports could erode Title IX protections.
They give the example of running against, and losing to, a transgender female athlete from the University of Montana.
“When I lose to another woman, I assume she must train harder than I do and it drives me to work harder. If I lose to a man, it feels completely different. It’s deflating,” Marshall wrote in a court declaration. “It makes me think that no matter how hard I try, my work and effort will not matter.”
The NCAA, the governing body of college sports, requires transgender female athletes undergo one year of hormone treatment before they can compete on female sports teams, in order to diminish athletic advantage due to testosterone.
Track results show that while the University of Montana runner consistently beat Kenyon and Marshall, so did many other women. They typically placed far behind the University of Montana runner — who was frequently, but not always, among the top finishers in women’s events.