BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho moved closer Wednesday to banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports despite warnings that such a law is unconstitutional and uncertainties about how the NCAA might react.
A measure that overwhelmingly passed in the Republican-led state House of Representatives would apply to all sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team would not be open to a student who was born male, even if they identify as female.
It now goes to the GOP-dominated Senate. Republican Gov. Brad Little’s spokeswoman said he had no comment on whether he would sign it into law.
A similar bill is advancing in the Arizona Legislature, and Idaho Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt, the bill’s sponsor, said said other states were considering following suit.
Backers say the law is needed because athletes who are born male have physical advantages over females. They say that allowing transgender women can limit female athletic, economic and self-growth opportunities provided through sports.
The legislation’s “intent is to continue to protect girls and women in sports, and to provide those opportunities that we have had for almost the last 50 years,” Ehardt said.
Ehardt said her legislation would only apply to Idaho student-athletes, allowing transgender females from other states to compete in Idaho.
Opponents say it discriminates against transgender girls and women, and will subject female athletes to invasive tests so they can participate in sports.
Democratic Rep. Muffy Davis, a seven-time medalist in Paralympic Games, said it could limit female participation because of the tests. “There is no one more passionate about protecting women’s sports that I am,” she said. “This restrictive bill is not the answer to protecting women’s sports.”
The NCAA, which governs major college athletics, in 2016 disqualified North Carolina from hosting championship events after lawmakers there passed a “bathroom bill” considered anti-transgender. Lawmakers later repealed the law, and the NCAA lifted its ban. The NCAA has a policy allowing transgender athletes to compete.
It was not clear what action the NCAA might take in response if the legislation is signed into law. Boise State University’s football team, known for its blue-turf field, is frequently ranked in the top 25 in the nation. Some lawmakers appeared unconcerned with ramifications of a new law.
“We are the Legislature of the state of Idaho, and we have every right to make an effort to define policy,” said Republican Rep. Gary Marshall. “I don’t think that this body should be intimidated or threatened by things that are not necessarily clear or true.”
The Idaho attorney general’s office said the legislation could be unconstitutional and difficult to defend.
“This bill is unabashedly sex-based discrimination,” Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel told lawmakers.