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Appeals court maintains block on nation's first transgender student athlete ban

UPI

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court has ruled against the nation's first ban on transgender girls and women from participating in female student athletics, stating the Idaho law is discriminatory and likely unconstitutional.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Judge David Nye of the U.S. District Court of Idaho did not err in August 2020 when he placed an injunction against the state's House Bill 500, better know as The Fairness In Women's Sports Act.

The law, which Republican Gov. Brad Little signed in March 2020, bans transgender girls and women from female sports at all levels, from intramural to elite. The bill includes a sex verification process that only applies to women and girls that allows any person to dispute the biological sex of an athlete, requiring them to undergo intrusive medical procedures, including gynecological exams.

In the ruling Thursday, the three-judge panel sided with the injunction, stating the law is likely unconstitutional because only women and girls who want to participate in public school sports are subjected to "an intrusive" sex verification process, while banning all transgender women and girls from sports whether they have gone through puberty or hormone therapy.

The judges also said the state failed to provide any evidence showing that the act is related to its stated purpose of ensuring sex equality and opportunity for women athletes.

"Nothing in today's decision, or in the district court's decision, precludes policy makers from adopting appropriate regulations in this field -- regulations that are substantially related to important governmental interest," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, a President Bill Clinton appointee, wrote in the court's ruling.

Idaho was the first state to pass such a law, but since then more than 20 other states have followed, according to the Movement Advancement Project. The law passed amid an ongoing Republican effort targeting the rights of transgender people that includes restricting which bathrooms they may use to trying to ban their access to doctor-prescribed gender-affirming healthcare.

The ruling Thursday comes in litigation filed in April 2020 by the American Civil Liberties Union and other such organizations on behalf of Lindsay Hecox, a transgender Boise State University student who had wanted to try out for soccer and cross-country teams, and Kayden Hulquis, then-Boise high school senior concerned about the sex verification aspect of the law.

Christiana Kiefer, an attorney with the conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, which seeks to inject their religious beliefs into law and public policy, tweeted that "the court got it wrong."

"When our laws and policies ignore biological reality, women and girls get hurt," she said on X.

Conservatives had championed such legislation as being a way to keep integrity in women's sports, while LGBTQ advocates argue such bans aim to solve a problem that doesn't exist through discrimination and violating basic privacy rights.

"This is an important victory for common sense, equality and the rights of transgender youth under the law," Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

"Idaho's ban and all others like it are designed to alienate and stigmatize transgender people and we'll never stop fighting until all transgender youth are given the equal playing field they deserve."