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The Idaho House of Representatives on Wednesday advanced a bill that would ban transgender girls or women from competing on female sports teams at public schools.

The push for this type of legislation came from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based socially conservative group, and Idaho is among several states to introduce such a bill this year. As the Idaho Press reported, the language of Idaho’s bill is nearly identical to one introduced in Mississippi.

Idaho Falls Republican Barbara Ehardt, the sponsor of House Bill 500, worked with the Alliance Defending Freedom in crafting the legislation.

Before the bill passed the House on a 52-17 vote, Ehardt said it would “create a fair playing field” and “protect athletes.” The vote came a day after nearly 50 people, including doctors and parents, testified in an emotional hearing, largely against the legislation.

“I am not trying to exclude trans people from living a full, healthy life,” Ehardt told the House Wednesday. “This is about competing in the biological sex in which you were born.”

Yet, the bill would be exclusive. If it becomes law, it's questionable if transgender women and girls would have the opportunity to partake in school sports in any other meaningful way, according to Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, in response to a legislator's request for an analysis of the bill. Participating in sports can produce so many benefits: perseverance, camaraderie, physical health — all things that contribute to a 'full, healthy life.'

Ehardt’s bill, fraught with concerns about constitutionality and discrimination, stirs up a painful debate. And for what purpose? This bill does not address an issue in Idaho.

Sports organizations — experts better tasked with handling regulation around competition — already have rules in place. As the Post Register editorial board, based in Idaho Falls where Ehardt is from, wrote this week, the vast majority of these organizations “have all reviewed the scientific evidence and found that transgender women do not have an unfair advantage after a period of testosterone suppression.” Idaho currently requires a full year of testosterone suppression before transgender women can compete in the women’s division.

So why then, is the Idaho Legislature debating legislation that would actually create a problem rather than solve one? We have limited months to get laws passed to improve the lives of Idahoans — to address real issues people face in their daily lives. Why does an Arizona group — notably one that's been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — get to shape our conversation and influence how lawmakers spend this valuable time?

But more important, what kind of society do we want to live in? One that’s obsessed with competition to the point of telling transgender girls, “There is no place for you, sorry”? That’s the path this bill is heading down. 

Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Kethcum, a seven-time Paralympics medalist, spoke Wednesday about how she benefited from Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in school sports.

“Not only as a woman but a woman with a disability I could still be the person I was born to be and … compete at international levels,” Davis said. “And never once was I told that was not possible. And that was because of great legislation that enabled me to move forward.”

HB 500, on the other hand, “is not fair, equitable or respectful to all,” Davis said. “This is not a problem that we have here in Idaho.”

An especially concerning problem, one that we'd rather see lawmakers' energy go to, is the increase of sexual abuse cases against children. Last fiscal year, prosecutors in Idaho filed charges in more cases involving sexual abuse against children than in any other year since the state began tracking that data in 1990, the Idaho Press reported.

Idaho lawmakers need to care more about solving problems than using their position as a platform to make a social statement.

Our editorials are based on the majority opinions of our editorial board. Not all opinions are unanimous. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison and community members Tami Dooley, John Jackson, Chase Johnson, Melissa Morales, Jane Suggs and Devon Van Essen. Editor Holly Beech is a nonvoting member.

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