House panel OKs Idaho bill to ban transgender women athletes

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Legislation preventing transgender women from participating in sports that align with their gender identity headed to the House on Thursday.

The House State Affairs Committee approved the bill by Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt after public testimony on Wednesday.

The legislation would apply to all sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team would not be open to a student who was born male, even if they identify as female.

Ehardt said the legislation is needed because athletes who are genetically male have physical advantages over females and, as a result, can limit female athletic, economic and self-growth opportunities provided through sports.

“That’s what this is doing – protecting the rights of girls and women and opportunities,” Ehardt told the committee.

Ehardt said the law would work by requiring athletes to have a physical exam, a genetic test and hormonal test to prove they could compete as a female.

Opponents of the legislation say it unconstitutionally discriminates against transgender girls and women, and will subject female athletes to invasive tests so they can participate in sports.

“The idea that this bill could become a law is simply shocking,” said Kathy Griesmyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. She said her organization was prepared to take legal action should the measure become law.

“This bill is an egregious attack on just one segment of our community,” said Democratic Rep. Brooke Green. She also said it could lead to lawsuits because of the invasive tests to determine gender.

Republican Sen. Mary Souza testified in favor of the bill.

“Science and common sense tell us that males are physically stronger than females,” she said.

Mistie Tolman of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii said the legislation doesn’t address any real-world concerns, noting transgender athletes have been competing in Idaho for years. She also said the legislation could lead to some girls choosing not to participate in sports because of the prospect of an internal examination of their reproductive organs to determine their biological sex.

“No young person should have to endure such humiliating requirements to participate in youth sports,” Tolman said.

Blaine Conzatti of the Family Policy Alliance testified in favor of the bill. “It is not exclusionary to say that biological males should play in boys and not girls sports,” he said.

Several transgender adults spoke about the sadness they felt as young students being turned away from participating in sports. Several women testified that their experiences competing in sports as young girls would have been adversely altered had they had to compete against transgender females.

Two motions that would have essentially killed the legislation failed before the committee voted to send the measure to the House floor.