The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal have launched legal campaigns against laws recently enacted in Idaho that effectively restrict transgender girls and women and intersex people from participating in school sports and bar transgender and non-binary individuals from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates.
The legal challenges follow a controversial but successful effort by both houses of Idaho’s GOP-led State Legislature and Republican Governor Brad Little to enact the unprecedented bills in the middle of a deadly health emergency that has sent the nation’s economy into a tailspin and strained the healthcare system.
State’s GOP pols broadly curtailed trans rights in the middle of a pandemic
The bill banning trans girls and women from playing sports in schools and colleges — the first such bill to become law in the nation — bans “students of the male sex” from participating in sports “designated for females women, or girls” and allows individuals to dispute a student-athlete’s gender. Such a challenge triggers a review process that subjects youth to invasive testing to confirm their gender based on anatomy, testosterone levels, or the student’s genetic makeup.
In response, the ACLU is leading the federal lawsuit on behalf of a transgender track star at Boise State University as well as a cisgender athlete who is afraid of being subjected to the invasive sex testing. Legal Voice, a progressive Seattle-based feminist litigation group focused on bringing positive change for women, girls, and LGBTQ people, and the law firm Cooley LLP are also listed as attorneys for the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit alleges that the law “impermissibly discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status and invades fundamental privacy rights.” It goes on to detail the accounts of plaintiffs, including transgender Boise State’s Lindsay Hecox, who intends to try out for the women’s cross country team there in the fall.
“Running on a men’s team is not an option for Lindsay,” the suit states. “She is not a man, and as a woman who is transgender, it would be painful and humiliating to be forced to be the only woman on a men’s team. It would also be contrary to her medical treatment plan for her gender dysphoria, which requires that she live her life in all respects as the woman she is. She is also worried that she would face harassment from other members of the men’s team or people who attend meets.”
Meanwhile, Lambda Legal responded to the birth certificate law by focusing its efforts on enforcing a 2018 federal court ruling that, until now, appeared to have settled the birth certificate issue for the better.
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in 2017 arguing that preventing trans Idahoans from obtaining accurate birth certificates is discriminatory and represents a violation of the US Constitution. In March of the following year, the US District Court for the District of Idaho issued a permanent injunction against officials in the state, declaring that such birth certificate restrictions were indeed unconstitutional and discriminated against trans individuals. State officials were ordered to allow trans people born in Idaho to correct the gender markers on their birth certificates.
Now Lambda Legal is on a mission to make sure that ruling stands. On April 16, the litigation group filed a motion for clarification with the US District Court. In a written statement, Lambda Legal counsel Peter Renn tore into state legislators in Idaho, calling them “so brazenly lawless” and describing the bill as “a naked flouting of the rule of law.”
“Two years ago, the court determined that the state’s ban against transgender people correcting their birth certificates was dangerous, discriminatory, and indefensible,” Renn said. “That is why the court permanently barred Idaho from automatically turning away transgender people seeking birth certificates that match their gender identity. Permanent means permanent.”
He continued, “The rule of law collapses if we refuse to abide by the outcome of who wins and who loses in our system of justice.”
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