Idaho Advances Anti-Transgender Bills Amid COVID-19 Crisis

by Shelbi Day, Co-Director, State Policy and Senior Policy Counsel

One would hope that in the midst of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we could focus on how we can help rather than hurt one another. And, over the last few weeks, we have seen people throughout the world come together—albeit virtually—to support one another during this global crisis. In fact, last week, as the virus spread rapidly throughout the United States, many local, state, and federal government officials either pushed pause by going into recess or shifted their attention to what matters most—containing the virus, increasing access to testing and medical protective equipment, bolstering the economy, helping families, and ensuring children are able to learn from home. But Idaho legislators did not, focusing instead on advancing dangerous anti-transgender legislation.

Idaho H0500, a harmful bill targeting transgender athletes, prohibits young people of all ages—from elementary school to college—from participating on the sports team that is consistent with their gender identity. It subjects girls who present as masculine or who are intersex to invasive testing far beyond a standard sports physical.

And, in direct conflict with a 2018 federal district court ruling, Idaho H0509 prevents transgender people born in Idaho from correcting the sex marker on their birth certificate so that their identity documents align with who they are in the world, opening them up to greater harassment and violence anytime identity documents are needed as they move through daily life.

Both bills, which are extremely harmful to Idahoans and put the state at risk of costly litigation, are on Idaho Governor Brad Little’s desk. Last week, Family Equality, along with our sister organizations, the business community, and many Idahoans, urged Governor Little to veto these bills.

While Idaho was an outlier last week, it is a sobering reminder that, even during this crisis, we must remain diligent in fighting attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. There were many anti-LGBTQ+ bills in states throughout the country during this legislative session, and some of those are still potentially in play. It remains to be seen whether those bills will take a sideline to the pandemic once states go back into session or if more states will follow Idaho’s lead by moving forward with legislation that puts us in harm’s way rather than protecting us.

Furthermore, as federal and state COVID-19 relief bills are rolled out over the days and weeks ahead, we must ensure that LGBTQ+ people and our families are protected and fight any nefarious attempts to carve us out of much-needed assistance.

Rest assured, we at Family Equality will be watching and fighting for our families and yours. In the meantime: