While most gatherings nationwide have ceased in response to the coronavirus, the Idaho Senate of 35 people met on Monday and voted to strip trans youth of the right to participate in high school athletics.
Idaho House Bill 500, also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Brad Little.
HB 500 passed overwhelmingly in the House in February. The House, comprised of 70 members, also swiftly approved a Senate amendment to the bill, sparking public outcry over the bill and the size of the gathering in the midst of the pandemic.
While we were all wondering how we were going to get by in groups smaller than 10..Idaho’s House of Rep got 70 people in a room to pass HB500..56-13..Idaho is a gov signature away from being 1st state to limit transgender athletes..
— KTVB Brian Holmes (@KTVBBrian) March 17, 2020
The bill bars transgender student athletes from competing on teams as the gender they identify, defaulting to sex assigned at birth. It has been widely criticized by LGBTQ rights advocates.
Chris Mosier, the first trans man to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials, traveled to Idaho to protest the bill.
On Monday, transgender advocates condemned the measure as a dangerous precedent for trans youth. Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said in a statement that trans youth simply want to play sports like other youth.
As most of the world focused on dealing with a global health pandemic, Idaho lawmakers cozied up at the Capital & passed a bill that bans athletes who are trans & intersex from playing any level of sport & allows invasive exams of kids who don't fit gender stereotypes. #vetohb500
— The Chris Mosier (@TheChrisMosier) March 17, 2020
“Should this bill be signed into law, schools would be required to single out trans youth—who already experience high levels of bullying and harassment in schools—for further harassment or even violence,” Hayashi said.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized Idaho lawmakers for targeting the transgender community as the world faces an unprecedented pandemic.
“At a time when our country needs everyone to come together and support one another, we should not be targeting transgender youth with unnecessary and illegal legislation,” said Heng-Lehtinen in a statement. “Idaho has policies in place already. We need our leaders to focus on serious issues of public health and safety and work to bring people together, not divide us.”
ALERT: The first anti-trans bill of 2020 has passed in Idaho. It will soon go to the Governor. Tell @GovernorLittle to #VetoHB500. The bill is regressive, it harms all women & girls, and is a direct attack on girls who are trans and intersex. We will sue you if you sign this.
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) March 17, 2020
Idaho HB 500 is among 50 anti-transgender bills pending in state legislatures across the nation, according to a legislative tracker by Freedom for All Americans. However, many legislatures have halted session due the coronavirus pandemic.
Idaho Governor Brad Little is expected to veto HB 500 after commenting that he is “not a big discrimination guy.”
Chase Strangio, a transgender lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, promised that if Little signs the measure, the ACLU will sue.