BOISE, Idaho -- An Idaho bill banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports despite warnings that such a law is unconstitutional headed to the governor's desk on Wednesday.
The House voted 54-16 to approve an amended version from the Senate.
The measure would apply to all sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team would not be open to transgender students who identify as female.
Backers say the law is needed because transgender female athletes have physical advantages. They say that allowing transgender women to compete can limit athletic, economic and self-growth opportunities provided through sports made possible by Title IX.
The 1972 law bars sex discrimination in education and is credited with opening up athletic competition for girls and women.
“Do not take us backward,” Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt told fellow lawmakers shortly before the vote. “This legislation is about continuing to provide opportunities for girls and women in sports.”
Opponents say it discriminates against transgender girls and women, and it will subject athletes to invasive tests to prove their gender, likely causing some potential athletes to avoid sports.
The original version of the law easily passed in the House last month. The Senate amended the bill in an attempt to alleviate concerns about invasive tests. But opponents were unconvinced, arguing anyone from a parent to an opposing player or someone with a grudge could require a student to take a humiliating test.
“What we are doing is codifying in state statute a government-mandated gynecological exam of our young women,” Democratic Rep. Brooke Green said.
The ban, if it's signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little, could be challenged in court, opponents said, and end up costing Idaho expensive attorney fees it would have to pay to the winning side.
Democratic Rep. John Gannon said that's because the measure is clearly discriminatory. “All this bill, in the end, is doing is picking on a vulnerable group of people who need our support and help,” Gannon said.
On another front, legislation banning transgender people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates despite a federal court ruling declaring such a law unconstitutional headed to the governor's desk on Tuesday.
A federal judge in 2018 scrapped the ban and warned against Idaho making new rules.
If signed into law, Idaho would be one of less than a handful of states with such a restriction.