Updated at 11:03 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26.
One of the three transphobic bills working its way through the Idaho House will not receive a vote, effectively killing the bill. Chair of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell) decided not to allow a vote on the bill.
“I found all of the 51 people who addressed the committee yesterday to be sincere and legitimately concerned for the welfare of our children,” Chaney wrote in a release.
The bill would have prevented gender confirming surgery and medications to Idahoans under the age of 18, allowing authorities to prosecute doctors who perform such surgeries.
Updated again at 1:02 p.m.:
While House Bill 465 did not make it to the floor for a vote, House Bill 500 passed the house with a 52-17 vote.
House Bill 500 would require athletes whose gender identity is questioned to undergo invasive medical exams, including a pelvic examination.
When Oliver Cowan was in high school, he hadn’t yet begun his transition. Still, Cowan understands the fear, anxiety and depression that young transgender people suffer through.
“When I think about sports and how they affected me when I was in high school, it was just such a positive thing that got me through. I hadn’t started my transition in high school; but sports help with depression, anxiety, they help you connect with people and they help you make friends, which is already really hard as a young transgender person,” he said.
This is why Cowan testified against House Bill 500 recently, and will testify against the other anti-transgender bills working their way through the Idaho Legislature. HB 500, fronted by Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls), would require invasive medical exams of high school and collegiate athletes who are transgender or suspected of being transgender, including pelvic exams. It would also require that athletes compete on teams that correspond with their biological sex, not their gender identity.
Early Tuesday, opponents of the bill scored a major win when the Office of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden released an opinion declaring HB 500 unconstitutional. Wasden’s opinion is not legally binding, but it is a warning that if the bill is passed, it could lead to a legal battle.
All told, there are three bills regarding transgender people in Idaho; the other two being HB 465 and HB 509. The former would make it illegal for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to transgender youths including surgery or medication, while the latter would bar transgender people from changing their gender identity listed on their birth certificates.
“I think that it’s clearly been an issue of the last, I mean 15 years we’ve been trying to get Add the Words to be heard in the state legislature,” Cowan said. “I think Rep. Ehardt is focused on legislation that’s focused on sports. I don’t know why the time is now, but it seems like they are going after it, and going after it hard.”
As it stands, HB 500 is headed to the House Floor with a “Do Pass” recommendation. Bills 465 and 509 are still in committee.
Ehardt did not respond to request for comment, but said at the hearing that the bill is a an attempt to level the playing field for girls sports. She added that biological males are typically stronger, having higher muscle and bone density and more lung capacity, according to reporting from the Idaho Falls Post-Register.
“Science and common sense tells us that males are physically stronger than females,” she said. “The evidence is unequivocal.”
While Ehardt heralded her bill as a step toward fairness, Democratic legislators questioned its merit and intention. Rep. Brooke Green (D-Boise) called it an attack on one segment of the community, while Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) called the bill a “legal quagmire.”
Should it pass both the House and the Senate, the ACLU of Idaho warned that a lawsuit is waiting. Kathy Griesmeyer, a public policy strategist at the ACLU of Idaho, said the bills are not at all an affirmation of Title IX, which seeks to bring equity between men’s and women’s sports.
“We see that there are multiple legal issues with HB 500, ranging from Title IX violations… as well violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because we’re singling out transgender girls,” Griesmeyer said. “This bill is rife with many legal concerns.”
Griesmeyer pointed out, and Ehardt noted in her testimony, that there are no known issues with transgender athletes competing in high school sports. Simply, the bill’s supporters are using complaints from other states.
“This is definitely tied into a national trend we’re seeing where lawmakers are filing an unprecedented number of attacks on transgender people, specifically transgender youth,” Griesmeyer said.
She added that an additional issue is that if a girl is dominant in her sport, she could be subjected to invasive medical exams.
The bill has received some national attention, with Nike-sponsored transgender athlete Chris Mosier decrying the bill and encouraging people to reach out to Gov. Brad Little to voice their opposition.
This is far from Idaho’s first go-around with transgender issues in recent memory. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, the state has grappled with a decision by the 9th Circuit Court to require Idaho to provide gender confirmation surgery to Idaho inmate Adree Edmo. Little has repeatedly rejected the court’s decision and said he will take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Recently, the Idaho Senate voted along party lines to back Little’s decision.
This decision comes after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision that Edmo must receive the surgery.