ACLU Sues Idaho for Banning Male Athletes From Female Sports

A Washington, D.C., demonstration organized by the ACLU / Getty Images
April 15, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced it will sue the state government over the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, a law that made Idaho the first state to ban biologically male students from participating in all-female sports.

"When [Republican governor Brad Little] signed a law to ban trans athletes, he sent a message that trans people do not deserve the benefits of sports available to their peers," ACLU of Idaho wrote on Twitter.

The ACLU, ACLU of Idaho, and other pro-trans legal groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of two students: a transgender Boise State University track runner named Lindsay Hecox and a Boise High School student who is not transgender but said she is worried the government could invade her privacy to verify her sex.

The groups seek to prevent the law from taking effect July 1. 

The ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project senior staff attorney Gabriel Arkles said inclusivity in sports should be the standard. 

"In Idaho and across the country, transgender people of all ages have been participating in sports consistent with their gender identity for years," Arkles said. "Inclusive teams support all athletes and encourage participation, this should be the standard for all school sports."

During an interview with KTVB-TV, Gov. Little said his decision to pass the law was to protect the rights of female athletes.

"I think that the issue is the girl’s right to participate without having to be concerned about who they’re competing with. And that’s why I signed the bill," he said.

The bill cites biological differences between males and females that impact performance capabilities, such as bone density, heart size, and lung mass. Males can also generate more speed and strength due to many factors including their naturally higher levels of testosterone and hemoglobin.

"Courts have recognized that the inherent, physiological differences between males and females result in different athletic capabilities," the bill states.

Female students in Connecticut filed federal lawsuits seeking to prevent schools in the state from allowing transgender people to compete in women's sports after the students lost competitions to athletes born male. The Alliance Defending Freedom requested an investigation of the policies, saying, "It is female athletes that are paying the price—losing out on championship titles, state records, and even scholarship opportunities."