Corrected on April 9 at 12:50 p.m.: In a previous version of this article, the term “biological” was incorrectly used to describe transgender individuals. Though the bill’s sponsor uses the term biological men and biological women, biological sex and gender identity are not mutually exclusive. This bill prohibits transgender women and girls from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt proposed a new bill that would ban female transgender athletes from competing in women’s high school and college sports. On March 30, the bill was officially signed into law by Gov. Brad Little.
Little did not release a statement upon signing House Bill 500.
Under this bill, also known as HB 500, women’s sports teams would not allow transgender students to compete on the same team.
Those in favor of the bill believe in protecting women’s rights in sports by making games a fair competition. Critics of this bill believe HB 500 is discriminatory toward the transgender and LGBTQ+ community in Idaho.
As the main sponsor of HB 500, Ehardt believes men and women cannot compete in sports fairly against one another.
“There will always be physiological differences that biological boys and men have over biological girls and women that are not changed through the use of estrogen or hormones that they may take,” Ehardt said.
Ehardt explained that HB 500 would not prohibit transgender women from competing in sports.
Ehardt and other supporters of this bill believe that allowing transgender women to compete with women assigned female at birth would backtrack nearly 50 years of women’s progress in sports.
“I absolutely support everyone’s choice to be who they want to be and to live whatever life they want to live,” Ehardt said. “We are free to make whatever choices we want. We are not free to choose the consequences of those choices. This is one of those choices that we are saying, ‘biological boys and men cannot compete with biological girls and women.’”
According to the bill amendment text on the Idaho Legislature’s website, HB 500 originally states, “The health care provider may verify the student’s biological sex as part of a routine sports physical examination relying only on one (1) or more of the following: the student’s reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup or normal endogenously produced testosterone levels.”
However, this section has since been amended and removed.
Critics of HB 500 believe Ehardt and other lawmakers should take note of the NCAA, which manages collegiate sports programs. According to NCAA guidelines, transgender women are allowed to compete on women’s teams as long as they have completed 12 months of estrogen treatment.
Rep. Muffy Davis believes this bill hinders transgender athletes’ ability to compete in high school and college sports.
“[This bill] is stating that there is no place in high school and college sports in Idaho for trans-female athletes,” Davis said.
Davis also explained that transgender rights are human rights and she wants to serve all people of Idaho with inclusivity and diversity.
“Our job is to protect people. Our job is to write bills that represent and balance all of our constituents,” Davis said. “Not just the ones that look like us. Not just the ones that we agree with. Not just the ones we get along with.”
Tanisha Jae Newton, a member of the ACLU of Idaho, opposed HB 500 and believes it is unconstitutional for Idahoans. Newton noted that not everyone in higher positions is necessarily fit to be making decisions like HB 500.
“Legislators are making these decisions on behalf of communities in which they are not a part of,” Newton said.
Activism for the transgender community will not stop, despite the bill’s passing. Newton advises people to “show up and show out” to protect transgender rights and the transgender community.
“Trans people have always existed and they will continue to exist. They are valid,” Newton said. “They are celebrated members of our community. It’s time for us to show up and show that.”