ACLU files injunction to stop Idaho law banning trans student athletes

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an injunction in state court in Boise, Idaho, Thursday to stop a new law that bans transgender student athletes from participating in school sports. HB500, as the law was called when it was considered by Idaho lawmakers, is set to go into effect July 1.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio announced the litigation on Facebook, and the ACLU issued a press release Thursday afternoon.

“Today, one month after Governor Little signed HB 500 into law, we filed a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect while the litigation proceeds,” Strangio wrote in his post.

The injunction motion is based on the law’s violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, according to the ACLU statement.

As Outsports has reported, the ACLU has taken Idaho to federal court in an effort to stop the law from taking effect. Lindsay Hecox, a student at Boise State University who is transgender and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, issued a statement via the ACLU:

“My life is not centered around being transgender; while it is an important part of my identity, it does not define me nor is it something I want to think about every day. However, in this case I will be proudly trans because this attack on trans people is too important to ignore,” says Hecox, who is training to join Boise State’s cross country team this fall and its track team in spring 2021.

“We are asking the federal court to stop this unconstitutional law before it ever harms Idaho students,” said Ritchie Eppink, Legal Director of the ACLU of Idaho. “A preliminary injunction will maintain the NCAA and Idaho High School Activities Association rules already in place.”

The organization has been joined by leaders of student bodies across Idaho in denouncing the new law.

In his post on Facebook, Strangio wrote: “Gabriel Arkles and I share some information about the facts and assumptions about trans people and sports.”

Strangio and Arkles are both trans men themselves, and shared details of their argument to Idaho’s court with their social media followers.

Strangio and Arkles collaborated on the “Four Myths about Trans Athletes, Debunked.” Here’s an excerpt from their post, which was written with “the expertise of doctors, academics, and sports psychologists serving as experts in our litigation in Idaho.”

FACT: Including trans athletes will benefit everyone.

MYTH: The participation of trans athletes hurts cis women.

Many who oppose the inclusion of trans athletes erroneously claim that allowing trans athletes to compete will harm cisgender women. This divide and conquer tactic gets it exactly wrong. Excluding women who are trans hurts all women. It invites gender policing that could subject any woman to invasive tests or accusations of being “too masculine” or “too good” at their sport to be a “real” woman. In Idaho, the ACLU represents two young women, one trans and one cis, both of whom are hurt by the law that was passed targeting trans athletes.

Further, this myth reinforces stereotypes that women are weak and in need of protection. Politicians have used the “protection” trope time and time again, including in 2016 when they tried banning trans people from public restrooms by creating the debunked “bathroom predator” myth. The real motive is never about protection — it’s about excluding trans people from yet another public space. The arena of sports is no different.

On the other hand, including trans athletes will promote values of non-discrimination and inclusion among all student athletes. As longtime coach and sports policy expert Helen Carroll explains, efforts to exclude subsets of girls from sports, “can undermine team unity and also encourage divisiveness by policing who is ‘really’ a girl.” Dr. Mary Fry adds that youth derive the most benefits from athletics when they are exposed to caring environments where teammates are supported by each other and by coaches. Banning some girls from athletics because they are transgender undermines this cohesion and compromises the wide-ranging benefits that youth get from sports.

FACT: Trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports.

MYTH: Trans athletes’ physiological characteristics provide an unfair advantage over cis athletes.

Women and girls who are trans face discrimination and violence that makes it difficult to even stay in school. According to the U.S. Trans Survey, 22 percent of trans women who were perceived as trans in school were harassed so badly they had to leave school because of it. Another 10 percent were kicked out of school. The idea that women and girls have an advantage because they are trans ignores the actual conditions of their lives.

Trans athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes. “One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better,” explains Andraya Yearwood, a student track athlete and ACLU client. “One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster,” she adds. In Connecticut, where cisgender girl runners have tried to block Andraya from participating in the sport she loves, the very same cis girls who have claimed that trans athletes have an “unfair” advantage have consistently performed as well as or better than transgender competitors.

Read more myths and facts from the ACLU by clicking here and click here for the organization’s post about the new law in Idaho.


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