Following two days of emotional testimony that ran predominantly against the bill, the House State Affairs Committee Thursday advanced a bill banning transgender girls and transgender women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports.
Pushed by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, House Bill 500 would require women to prove their biological sex through a physician’s statement in the event of a dispute. Ehardt’s bill makes women prove their sex based solely on the student’s internal or external reproductive anatomy, a student’s normal testosterone levels and an analysis of a student’s genetic makeup.
Ehardt, an outspoken legislator who is well-known for her basketball coaching and playing career, said she brought the bill to protect and preserve opportunities for women to participate in competitive sports like she did.
“Let me be very clear, there will be lawsuits and they will be coming from the parents of girls whose spots were taken by biological boys,” Ehardt said.
But nearly two dozen people who opposed the bill said it discriminates against transgender women, further marginalizes students who are already subject to bullying and could result in numerous challenges that would force girls to undergo invasive sex verification tests.
“Trans girls are girls,” said Chelsea Genoa Lincoln, chair of Add the Words Idaho. “Trans women are women and anything less is transphobic.”
Diane Terhune, a Boise mother of a transgender daughter, opposed the bill. Terhune said her daughter just wants to blend in, make friends and form connections. Participating in sports could help her do that.
Passing the bill would “put discrimination into law, which says she deserves heightened levels of government interference in her life because she is transgendered,” Terhune said.
Others pointed out the Idaho High School Athletics Association and NCAA already have policies allowing transgender girls to participate in girls’ sports.
“This bill addresses imaginary fears and does nothing to address the real issues,” said the Rev. Marci Auld Glass of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise. Auld pointed out that there has never been a case of someone challenging an Idaho student athlete’s eligibility based on sex.
“It denies transgender students the ability to participate fully in their school community,” said Mistie Tolman, Idaho state director for Planned Parenthood.
On the other side of the debate, the Catholic Church, Family Policy Alliance of Idaho and a championship weightlifter supported the bill.
Christian Welp, a spokesperson for Roman Catholic Diocese Boise, said the aim of passing the bill is to “protect the beautiful differences between men and women.”
Michelle Fayant, a Boise-based powerlifter, said passing the bill would make sure girls don’t lose opportunities to participate in sports and compete for records on a level playing field.
When it came time to vote, Democrats attempted to kill the bill or send it out for amendments.
“This bill is an egregious attack on just one segment of our community,” said Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise.
But in the end, Republicans advanced the bill to the floor, with only the three Democrats opposing it.
House Bill 500 heads next to the House floor, with a recommendation it passes.