Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed two bills into law that will make life harder for transgender youth and adults in his state.

His state is part of a national trend seen earlier this year from New Hampshire to Arizona: a flood of bills designed to curtail transgender rights, and specifically options for trans youth. They’ve called for steps from eliminating transgender students, girls mainly, from participation in high school sports, to draconian measures that would imprison health care professionals who provide gender-affirmative care.

Two of those bills have sat on the desk of Idaho Gov. Brad Little for days, and Monday night he signed them into law on the eve of this year’s International Transgender Day of Visibility.

One is House Bill 500, dubbed the “Fairness In Women’s Sports Act” introduced by former Cal-State Fullerton head women’s basketball coach-turned Idaho Republican legislator Barbara Ehardt.

Idaho state Rep Barbara Ehardt, shown here back in her coaching days, authored HB500 currently sitting on the desk of the Governor Brad Little

Now the law in Idaho, HB500 bans transgender girls from participating high school athletics. The law also calls for a return of gender verification in competitive sport. The International Olympic Committee ended such practices in their programs more than 20 years ago.

HB500 calls for gender verification similar to the practices the IOC maintained up to 1999

“Our country is facing an unprecedented health crisis, and Gov. Little and members of the Idaho Legislature have prioritized attacking transgender student athletes with this discriminatory and unnecessary new law,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “State leaders should focus on protecting public health and safety, not on attacking vulnerable youth who want to play on a team with their peers. With so much suffering right now, Idaho is making sure trans kids suffer more.”

Until now, Idaho has allowed transgender youth to compete in sports consistent with their gender identity. Thus far, no trans student athletes have come out in Idaho’s high schools, but a college student joined NCTE in denouncing the governor’s decision, in a statement.

“As a transgender woman and a runner attending Boise State University, I strongly oppose HB 500,” said Lindsay Hecox. “Supporters of this bill are attempting to fix a problem that was never there. It specifically targets people like me and all transgender female athletes and denies us the opportunity to compete in sports. It’s unfair, unnecessary and discriminatory, and it ignores the commitment we’ve made to rigorous training and the importance of athletic competition to our lives.”

The other new law, House Bill 509, bans any changes on the gender marker of a birth certificate after the first year. This was the second attempt by conservative legislators in the last three years. In 2018, a similar bill was passed, then struck down by a U.S. District Court.

Both bills passed the Idaho Senate on March 16 just as the coronavirus crisis began to dominate the news cycle and the national discourse. Both measures also have been targets of a broad groundswell of opposition from a cross section of athletes, activists, litigators, businesses and grassroots organizations.

Multi-event athlete Chris Mosier has been vocal in his opposition and made appearances in Idaho to bolster local campaigns against the bills. Other sporting figures, including U.S. Women’s Soccer standout Ali Krieger, have lent their support to a call-in campaign to encourage people, calling Gov. Little directly and lobbying for a veto of both bills.

Five former Idaho state attorneys general appealed to Little to veto the bills, with a letter that was published in the Idaho Statesman the day after the State Senate vote. On March 19, representative from four major firms that are based in Idaho presented a hand-written appeal to Little, also calling for a veto.

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