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Idaho pronouns, sex definition bills advance in Legislature

The Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday approved two bills that opponents say target Idaho’s transgender community. | Courtesy Idaho Statesman
BOISE (Idaho Capital Sun) — Idaho’s Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday advanced two bills related to changing Idaho’s legal definition of the word “sex,” and protecting public employees from discipline if they refuse to use a pronoun that doesn’t align with an individual’s birth sex.
The committee first passed House Bill 421, which would change the legal definition of “sex” as “an individual’s biological sex, either male or female.” It would also consider the word gender as a synonym of that definition of sex, and create legal definitions of the words boy, father, female, girl, male and mother.
Its sponsor, Sen. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, said the bill is a “cleanup bill for our definitions” that aligns with previously passed legislation. 
RELATED | Sex definition bill moves to Idaho House floor despite lack of support in public hearing
Only one person, Grace Howat, a representative of the Idaho Family Policy Center, testified in favor of the bill. Howat said without clear definitions of “female” and “male,” bathrooms and locker rooms become “meaningless.” 
Ten people testified against the bill, including Dr. Jessica Rolynn, a family medicine doctor based in southeast Idaho.
Rolynn said she has been studying human biology for the past 14 years, and there is “no such thing” as a binary in sex or gender. The bill, she said, does not take into account her patients who are intersex — or people with ambiguous genitalia at birth. 
“By combining gender and sex and limiting it to a binary, you are erasing American and world culture,” she said, while listing examples of gender diversity in different cultures. “This bill will do nothing but harm the people of Idaho.”
RELATED | Local legislator introduces bill to change legal definition of ‘sex’ in state law
Three senators, Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise; Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland; and Sen. Mary Shea, a substitute for Sen. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, voted and spoke against the bill moving forward. 
“I also am really sitting here heavy on my heart with the statements that have been made by many people in this committee and many times over this Legislature that our constitution is to protect the minority,” Lee said. “And when we look at vulnerable, marginalized individuals who would be harmed — I think that that should matter to us.”
But the bill is still moving forward to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass from the committee. The bill already passed the House of Representatives in a 52-14 vote. 
Pronouns legislation protects freedom of speech, bill sponsors say
Following testimony for House Bill 421, many of the same people also testified for and against House Bill 538 — or what is commonly known as the pronouns bill. 
House Bill 538 would prohibit any government entity from compelling a public employee to use the preferred personal titles or pronouns that do not correspond with the biological sex of an individual.
Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, sits at his desk in the Senate Chambers in the State Capitol building on Jan. 8, 2024. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Its bill sponsor, Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, said the bill is a freedom of speech bill and allows people to stick with their personal and religious beliefs without punishment. 
“This bill is not bullying,” Trakel said. “This bill is to protect freedom of speech. You cannot compel an individual to say what you want them to say, especially us as the government.”
Trakel said no individual is compelled to refer to him as “senator,” and people have the freedom to address him how they choose, even if it is disrespectful. 
“Respect is a two-way street, and we cannot legislate respect,” Trakel said. 
But opponents, including the ACLU of Idaho, said the bill would allow public employees to misgender transgender employees and students. 
“The bill violates several constitutional rights and federal anti-discrimination protections,” ACLU of Idaho legislative strategist Amy Dundon said during testimony. “It distorts the meaning of the Constitution and inappropriately invokes First Amendment protections by pitting equal treatment and privacy protections against speech.”
The committee in a 5-4 vote moved to advance the pronouns bill. With both bills moving past the committee, an affirmative vote on the Senate floor would secure the bills a spot on Idaho Gov. Little’s desk for consideration. 
The post Idaho pronouns, sex definition bills advance in Legislature appeared first on East Idaho News.

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