Idaho moves to ban transgender ‘women’ and ‘girls’ from school sports

Sen. Mary Souza (R-Coeur d'Alene) is one of the sponsors of a bill to ban transgender girls and women from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. JAMES DAWSON / BOISE STATE PUBLIC RADIO

Democrats in the Idaho state legislature are opposing a bill to ban “transgender” (male) school athletes from women’s sports on the basis that children would be subjected to tests that hurt students’ “reputation and dignity for life.”

The bill headed back to Idaho’s House on March 17 after being amended in the Senate, which voted 24-11 to approve. The measure would apply to all athletic teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A team meant for actual, biological females would not be open to transgender students who identify as female.

Backers say the law is needed because male athletes have physical advantages, even when they’re pretending to be female. Allowing men to masquerade as women in sports can limit athletic, economic and self-growth opportunities made possible by Title IX, they say.

The 1972 Title IX law bars gender discrimination in education and opened up athletic competition for girls and women.

“It started to level the playing field,” said Republican Sen. Mary Souza. “But now we are in a new crisis. Girls who have been struggling and training and competing in their sport are suddenly confronted by biological males.”

Opponents said the bill discriminates against men who want to be treated as females, and will subject athletes to tests that might cause them to avoid sports.

The original version of the law passed in the House easily. The Senate amended the bill in an attempt to allay concerns about such tests. But opponents argued that anyone from a parent to an opponent to someone with a grudge could require a student to take a humiliating test.

“It would damage and hurt her reputation and dignity for life,” said Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett, noting very young girls would be subject to invasive physical exams. “Beyond the medical inaccuracies, this bill risks harming the physical and emotional health of our children.”

It was unclear what Stennett meant by “her.”

Republican Sen. Jim Rice agreed with Souza that males are generally better athletes than females. He said allowing transgender high school students to compete in girls’ sports could limit the competitive experiences of others.

“I think that it is important to protect those opportunities for my granddaughters,” Rice said.


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