Trump administration defends Idaho’s transgender athletics ban

The Trump administration has entered the legal dispute over Idaho’s transgender athletics ban, saying the law protects the rights of girls and women.

Attorney General William Barr

“Allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports is fundamentally unfair to female athletes,” Attorney General William Barr said in a news release Friday.

The release coincided with a 16-page court filing — co-authored by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Idaho U.S. attorney’s office — urging a federal judge to uphold Idaho’s first-in-the-nation transgender athletics law.

The law bans transgender girls and women from competing in girls’ and women’s sports. Gov. Brad Little signed the ban into law on March 30. Sixteen days later, opponents filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Lindsay Hecox, a transgender student and athlete at Boise State University.

Friday’s filing — a “statement of interest,” in legal parlance — mirrored the arguments legislators made in support of the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”

Federal attorneys argued that Idaho’s law provides girls and women “with equal opportunity to compete for, and enjoy the life-long benefits that flow from, participation in school athletics.” And, they argued, the law does not deprive transgender athletes of similar benefits.

“(They) simply must play on the team that corresponds to their biological sex, just like everyone else,” the attorneys wrote.

At one point — in the “key element” of the document, according to Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, the law’s co-sponsor — the feds’ attorneys say opponents are seeking to carve out “special treatment” for a segment of the population. That’s because the law would allow transgender girls and women, and only transgender girls and women, the right to choose how to compete.

Idaho’s transgender athletics ban places the state in the midst of what could be a costly legal dispute — and in the center of a national debate.

Earlier this month, dozens of groups and hundreds of athletes urged the NCAA to pull college sports events out of Idaho in response to the passage of the law. Boise is scheduled to host second- and third-round games for the 2021 men’s basketball tournament — an event that generated $15 million in economic activity in 2018, Heath Druzin of Boise State Public Radio reported last week.

The NCAA is scheduled to take up the matter in August.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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