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Idaho student body leaders sign letter denouncing state’s new anti-trans laws

Student body leaders from Idaho’s four public universities recently penned a joint letter addressed to Gov. Brad Little expressing their opposition to the bills.  

University of Idaho campus entry sign
In total, 28 Idaho student body leaders signed a letter expressing their opposition to the state’s anti-trans laws.
Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The young people of Idaho are standing up and making the case for human rights in the face of the state’s two new draconian anti-trans laws. Student body leaders from Idaho’s four public universities recently penned a joint letter addressed to Gov. Brad Little (R) expressing their opposition to the bills, which were enacted last month.

The first measure, HB 500, forbids transgender women or girls from playing on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The second, HB 509, prohibits transgender Idahoans from changing their birth certificates to match their gender identity.

Gov. Little signed both measures into law last month on the eve of International Transgender Day of Visibility.

“We as student leaders and as future state leaders are disappointed with your decision to sign HB 500 and HB 509 into law,” the letter reads, via the Idaho State Journal. “The bills are unnecessary, potentially expensive, and may produce various legal repercussions. They also conflict with the general public’s support for the transgender community.”

The letter is signed by student body leaders from the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College. There are 28 signatures in total.

Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the trans athlete ban. In the organization’s press release, senior staff attorney Gabriel Arkles said HB 500 “illegally targets women and girls who are transgender and intersex and subjects all female athletes to the possibility of invasive genital and genetic screenings.”

Ever since Republican State Rep. Barbara Ehardt introduced HB 500 early this year, numerous figures in the LGBTQ sports community have voiced their objections to the bills. Multi-event athlete Chris Mosier has been especially vocal, making appearances in Idaho to personally bolster campaigns against the measures. U.S. Women’s Soccer standout Ali Krieger also lobbied for Gov. Little to veto the legislation.

Five former Idaho attorneys general also sent a letter to Little urging him to veto the bills. The state’s five largest companies, including Chobani and Clif Bar, did as well.

But the public pressure campaign didn't work, as Little signed the measures into law, even as the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation.

Even an international emergency isn’t enough to ward off the odious powers of discrimination. In their letter, the student leaders made sure to point out how harmful the legislation could be for an entire generation of trans youth.

“Kids in high school and middle school, it’s traumatizing for them,” said UI student Senator Aaron Bharucha, who co-authored the letter. “Once you get older, you can understand what bigotry is and how it derives from ignorance, but when you’re younger, it just seems like hatred. It just seems like, ‘These people don’t accept me or like me for who I am.’”