New Idaho Laws Target Transgender Residents Transgender people in Idaho say two new state laws are aimed at making their lives much harder. One involves changing the sex listed on birth certificates. The other affects trans athletes.


New Idaho Laws Target Transgender Residents

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Two bills in Idaho that target transgender people became law this week, and that community says the laws will increase discrimination against them. This comes after a major U.S. Supreme Court decision that greatly expanded LGBTQ rights. Boise State Public Radio's James Dawson reports.

JAMES DAWSON, BYLINE: Earlier this year, as the bills came before Idaho's legislature, protesters rallied outside the state Capitol in Boise.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Hey, hey, ho, ho, transphobic bills has got to go.

DAWSON: They were protesting two bills that just became law July 1. One bans transgender people from changing the sex on their birth certificates and the other bars transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

CHRIS MOSIER: We are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. We are not seeing widespread domination by transgender women and girls.

DAWSON: That's Chris Mosier, the first transgender person to qualify for an Olympic trial.

MOSIER: This is not just about transgender athletes. This is the gateway to creating more discrimination, more discriminative policies against trans people.

DAWSON: Big businesses in Idaho spoke out, too. Tech giants HP and Micron, as well as Clif Bar and the yogurt maker Chobani, sent a letter to state legislators saying the proposals would hurt their recruitment efforts. Sharawn Connors is Micron's vice president for diversity, equality and inclusion.

SHARAWN CONNORS: If we're not able to attract that talent, ultimately, we don't get to the best innovation. And that's what we're all striving for. And on top of that, it's the right thing to do. But it's good for business as well.

DAWSON: Despite the businesses' lobbying and protests, the legislature passed the bills and Governor Brad Little signed them into law. The transgender athlete ban law is the first of its kind in the country. State Representative Barbara Ehardt, a former collegiate basketball coach, sponsored it. During the floor debate, she defended the move as protecting access to sports for who she calls biological girls and women.


BARBARA EHARDT: You see, in sports, we have requirements. We have standards. And it is not based on feelings. We have these in order to participate to ensure fairness for all.

DAWSON: That law is now being challenged in federal court. Richard Seamon teaches constitutional law at University of Idaho. He says the state faces an uphill battle due to the Supreme Court's recent LGBTQ employment decision.

RICHARD SEAMON: The court's decision is going to support arguments that the concept of sex discrimination should be understood broadly in all of the areas, including public accommodations where it's prohibited.

DAWSON: The law that bans people from changing the sex on their birth certificate comes into effect just as Oliver Johnson-Waskow was in the process of changing the sex on his identity documents.

OLIVER JOHNSON-WASKOW: Having to see my old name or dead name on paper, hear it over the phone, anything, it really is a big trigger for my gender dysphoria.

DAWSON: Backers of the law banning such changes say the data is vital for tracking public health issues - for instance, whether men or women are more affected by certain illnesses such as heart disease or high blood pressure. But Johnson-Waskow says that information could be easily stored in a separate database.

JOHNSON-WASKOW: That seems like something pretty simple, to me, something that we could easily do without hurting these individuals and hurting myself included.

DAWSON: Two years ago, a federal judge blocked an administrative policy in Idaho that prevented transgender people from changing their birth certificates. This new law replaced that policy. Now LGBTQ advocates are weighing another legal challenge. For NPR News, I'm James Dawson in Boise, Idaho.

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