Ridler, File / APThis Feb. 27, 2020, file photo shows the Idaho House of Representatives in the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho. The Trump administration is supporting Idaho’s new law banning biological males who identify as females from competing in women’s sports. It’s the first law of its kind in the nation and the Department of Justice backed it in a court filing on June 19, 2020. (Keith Ridler, File / AP)
A recently passed Idaho law barring biological males who identify as female from competing in women’s sports — the first such law in the nation — received backing on Friday from President Donald Trump’s administration.
The support came in the form of a court filing submitted by the U.S. Department of Justice, saying a federal judge considering a lawsuit challenging the ban should conclude that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The law prohibits transgender students who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in April, contending that the law violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The Justice Department wrote that the “Equal Protection Clause does not require states to abandon their efforts to provide biological women with equal opportunity to compete for, and enjoy the life-long benefits that flow from, participation in school athletics in order to accommodate the team preferences of transgender athletes.”
Republican Gov. Brad Little on March 30 signed into law the measure that received overwhelming support in Idaho’s Republican-dominated House and Senate and was unanimously opposed by Democrats. It takes effect on July 1.
“The Trump administration has been attacking trans folks in the United States since basically inauguration day,” Ritchie Eppink, legal director for the ACLU of Idaho, said. “It’s not surprising they made this a part of their anti-trans agenda as well.”
Two plaintiffs are bringing the lawsuit. One is an unnamed Boise area high school student.
The other is Lindsay Hecox, who will be a sophomore this fall at Boise State University and hopes to qualify for the women’s cross-country team as a biological male.
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The NCAA has a policy allowing transgender athletes to compete. But the sponsor of the Idaho law, Republican Barbara Ehardt, has called the NCAA policy “permissive.”
Ehardt has said that allowing transgender athletes on girls’ and women’s teams would negate nearly 50 years of progress women have made since the 1972 Title IX federal legislation credited with opening up sports, scholarships and other opportunities to female athletes.
The lawsuit argues that the new law is itself a violation of Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in education.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian group that defends religious freedoms, is seeking to intervene in the case on behalf of two female athletes at Idaho State University and welcomed the involvement of the Department of Justice.
“We commend the DOJ for supporting a level playing field for female athletes,” the group said in a statement.
The Trump administration filed a similar document in March in another federal lawsuit focusing on transgender college athletes in Connecticut.
The Justice Department in that case is supporting a lawsuit filed last year by several female track athletes who argued that two biologically male runners had an unfair physical advantage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.