A woman from Idaho said her lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on transgender athletes should continue to go through the court system as she is enrolled as a student at the State University of Boise and plans to play football for the school club team next spring.
Idaho passed the country’s first transgender sports ban last year, banning transgender women from playing on women’s sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. The law, dubbed House Bill 500 in court records, does not affect transgender men playing on men’s sports teams.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Voice, a women’s rights group, sued in federal court on behalf of Lindsay Hecox, a transgender woman and track athlete who hoped to run for State University from Boise. An unidentified Boise-area high school athlete who is a cisgender woman is also a plaintiff in the case because she fears she will be forced to undergo invasive tests to prove her biological sex if someone questions her gender. Women argue that the law violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause because it is discriminatory and the Fourth Amendment’s protections against invasion of privacy because of the testing required if an athlete’s gender is challenged.
In August 2020, U.S. District Judge David Nye prevented the law from coming into force as the trial progressed, saying Hecox and the other student would likely succeed in proving the law to be unconstitutional. But lawyers representing Idaho officials and a conservative Christian group called the Alliance Defending Freedom who intervened appealed the decision to the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals.
Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit returned the case to Idaho federal court so that a judge can determine whether the trial was still pending. That’s because Hecox had since retired from college after failing to qualify for the cross country team.
In court documents filed last week, Hecox said she has since re-enrolled in school and arranged to join the Boise State Women’s Club football team this spring. She also trains regularly in hopes of trying for BSU’s cross country and track teams when the season opens next fall.
“Much like when she filed this complaint, Lindsay is a registered transgender woman with Boise State who is considering joining a women’s sports team there – something HB 500 forbids her to do from absent relief,” her attorneys wrote. .
But state attorneys argue that Hecox’s future is uncertain and that she may change her mind about attending school or playing sports. They want the lawsuit dismissed for now, and say Hecox could re-file the case later if it appears she is likely to show up for BSU in the fall of 2022.
“All this uncertainty about the future of Hecox does not justify continuing to encroach on the sovereignty of Idaho by enjoining a law for the benefit of an individual who may not need the injunction,” state prosecutors wrote.
Idaho lawmakers argued that allowing transgender athletes on women’s and women’s teams would undo the progress women have made since 1972 federal legislation credited with opening the sport to female athletes.
But those who oppose the ban have cited the same federal civil rights law in Title IX that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
Once the Idaho federal judge determines whether or not the case is moot, the lawsuit will be remitted to the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals for review.