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ACLU files lawsuit over Idaho’s new transgender athlete law

Josie Kohler, the parent of a transgender daughter, wore ‘protect trans lives’ and ‘trans lives matter’ buttons to a hearing in February where Rep. Barbara Ehardt presented a bill that would limit transgender women and girls’ participation in sports. | Idaho Ed News
When Idaho Gov. Brad Little on March 30 signed into law a transgender-and-sports-related bill, the ACLU of Idaho issued a statement stating it would “see the governor in court.”
The ACLU has followed through on its threat, filing a complaint in Boise federal court Wednesday morning.
The lawsuit challenges a new law that bans transgender and intersex girls and women from competing in female public school and university sports.
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The law, scheduled to go into effect July 1, would make Idaho the first state to impose an outright ban on participation of transgender athletes, and it’s the only statewide law regulating transgender and intersex athletes in the country.
“Idaho now stands alone in imposing the threat of unwanted, medically unnecessary invasions to bar and chill participation in women’s and girls’ athletics,” states the 60-page complaint filed against the state.
Attorneys from the national ACLU, ACLU of Idaho, Legal Voice (a Seattle-based feminist organization), and Cooley LLP, a San Francisco law firm, filed the complaint on behalf of Lindsay Hecox, 19, a transgender Boise State University student, and a 17-year-old unnamed non-transgender Boise High School student. Both students identify as female.
Attorneys are asking the judge to enter a preliminary and permanent injunction barring the law from going into effect because they say it violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection, due process and search and seizure clauses, as well as Title IX, the 1972 law that bars sex discrimination in education.
“Alongside Idahoans throughout the state, we have been fighting this hateful, unconstitutional legislation since it was introduced,” said ACLU of Idaho Legal Director Ritchie Eppink in a news release. “Businesses, major employers, schools, doctors and counselors have all warned that this law is terrible for Idaho.”
RELATED | Lawmakers hear emotional testimony, take no action on transgender bill
In early March five of Idaho’s largest companies — Chobani, Clif Bar, HP, Micron and Idaho National Laboratory — called out the state for not supporting diversity and asked it to reject such divisive legislation.
The Idaho Office of the Attorney General, in a Feb. 25 legal analysis of HB 500, found that among the bill’s flaws are possible violations of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, privacy violations in determining how a student’s sex would be established, and commerce clause violations because it could conflict with NCAA and other national sports organization rules.
In addition, five former Idaho attorneys general — Tony Park 1971-1975; Wayne Kidwell 1975-1979; David Leroy 1979-1983; Jim Jones 1983-1991; and Al Lance 1995-2003 — jointly sent a letter to Little urging him to “give great weight to the advice of our successor, incumbent Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden,” and veto the bill.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden

“The Attorney General has opined that the legislation contains a number of legal infirmities, making it subject to invalidation in federal court proceedings. The more serious concern is apparent conflict with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but other provisions of federal law are implicated,” the former attorneys general stated.
Ironically, the Office of the Attorney General, which serves as the state’s legal arm and forewarned GOP lawmakers that the transgender legislation is on shaky legal ground, will have to defend the new law in court should the state be sued or found in violation of any court orders.
The Attorney General’s Office said it has no comment on the ACLU’s complaint.
Little has not issued a public statement as to why he chose to sign the Republican-backed transgender sports bill into law, as well as another transgender-related bill, HB 509, which prevents transgender people from changing their birth certificates, in defiance of a federal court order banning the state from the practice.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little.

During a Feb. 19 meeting with Idaho Press Club reporters, Little was asked about a spate of bills that would affect Idaho’s LGBTQ community and transgender girls in particular.
At the time, Little said that many of the bills appear to be based on things that have happened in other states, but may not be relevant to Idaho yet.
“I don’t think we ought to be sending signals that we’re intolerant in Idaho,” Little said. “That’s my personal position.”
The Statesman has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
RELATED | Transgender athletes rally against Idaho legislation
This article first appeared in the Idaho Statesman. It is used here with permission.

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