State, Regional and National Organizations Urge Gov. Little to Veto Trans Sports Ban Bill | National Center for Transgender Equality

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Friday, March 20, 2020

State, Regional and National Organizations Urge Gov. Little to Veto Trans Sports Ban Bill

More than 50 national, regional and state organizations have signed onto a letter urging Idaho Governor Brad Little to veto legislation that would ban transgender student athletes from participating in sports.

House Bill 500 bans transgender student athletes from participating in sports, which is counter to current policies set by the Idaho High School Activities Association. Idaho would become the first state in the country to pass legislation targeting transgender student athletes. 

State politicians supported this dangerous legislation during a public health emergency that calls for people to come together. Their actions should be rejected by the governor.

“The nation is watching as Gov. Little considers this discriminatory and hurtful legislation,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “We are urging the governor to stand up for trans kids and to stand up for fairness. It’s time for Idaho to come together and heal after this divisive fight. Gov. Little’s legacy and reputation are at stake.”

The Women’s Sports Foundation, the National Women’s Law Center, Women Leaders in College Sports and others are among the groups that support the participation of transgender student athletes in school sports. Girls Inc. is also a signer of the letter.

The text of the letter and signers are below:

National Sign on Letter to Oppose Anti-Trans Youth Sports Legislation

Office of the Governor

State Capitol

PO Box 83720

Boise, ID 83720

Dear Governor Little, 

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our deep dismay with the passage of House Bill 500 and concern for the implications of this bill for all young women and girls. 

Despite the bill’s stated intent-- to protect and promote girls’ sports—this bill would compromise access to sports for many vulnerable youth while doing nothing to support young athletes or to address real threats to girls’ sports. 

This bill blatantly targets an already-marginalized community in athletics and decreases their participation in sports. Transgender youth already participate at significantly lower rates and already feel unsafe in athletic spaces. A recent survey revealed that only 12% of trans girls and 14% of trans boys play on a team sport (compared to a national average of 68% of all youth). Further, when states enact policies that create new barriers for transgender athletes to participate in sports, the number of participants in sports for all LGBTQ youth drops. The harm of these laws falls explicitly on transgender girls, but the impact extends even further. 

Moreover, this bill does nothing to address the real threats to all girls’ participation in sports. Despite Title IX, schools are providing about 1.13 million fewer opportunities for girls to play sports in high school as compared to boys. Girl’s’ teams also routinely receive fewer benefits and resources compared to boys’ teams. Another documented threat to girls’ participation in sports includes the continued lack of female role models in coaching positions. Nearly 80% of female leaders in sports reported that lack of exposure to female coaches as role models limits girls’ sports participation. If legislators want to seriously protect and promote girls in sports, they should start by addressing Title IX non-compliance, funding disparities, and hiring practices that negatively impact girls’ athletics. 

At their core, youth sports are about building character, increasing self-confidence, and promoting healthy behavior and relationships. No child should be excluded from learning these critical life lessons. Youth sports should be open to all girls, including transgender girls. An increasing number of state athletic associations, including many of Idaho’s neighbors (Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming), have trans inclusive sports policies. Though specifics of inclusive policies may vary, a growing majority of sports organizations support allowing young transgender athletes to participate on teams that are consistent with their gender identity.  Major national sports governing bodies have also implemented policies that ensure transgender athletes can play and compete in their respective sports, including USA Cycling, USA Hockey, US Soccer, and USA Swimming also support trans-inclusive policies for transgender girls. State legislators should be taking similar steps to increase access to sports for more girls instead of trying to ban vulnerable youth from athletics.   

Given the power and benefits of sports, we support transgender youth participating in sports in safe and affirming ways. Therefore, we strongly oppose HB 500 and urge you to veto this harmful legislation. We encourage legislators to explore and pass measures that actually increase equity in girls’ and women’s athletics. Such efforts should never include singling out and excluding transgender youth from the chance to play. 

Sincerely, 

  • AAUW Boise Area Branch
  • AAUW Idaho
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago 
  • Athlete Ally
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Center for American Progress
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Equal Rights Advocates
  • Equality California
  • Equality North Carolina
  • Family Equality
  • FORGE, Inc.
  • Freedom for All Americans
  • FreeState Justice
  • Gender Justice
  • Girls Inc. 
  • GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
  • GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality
  • GLSEN
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Inclusion Playbook
  • interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth
  • Lambda Legal
  • Legal Momentum, the Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Los Angeles LGBT Center
  • Lurie Children's Hospital
  • Mazzoni Center
  • Modern Military Association of America
  • Movement Advancement Project
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • National Equality Action Team
  • National Indian Education Association
  • National Partnership for Women & Families
  • National Women's Law Center
  • Oasis Legal Services
  • OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates
  • Public Justice
  • Silver State Equality-Nevada
  • Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  • SPLC Action Fund
  • The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
  • The Trevor Project
  • TransAthlete.com
  • Transgender Law Center
  • Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE)
  • Whitman-Walker Health
  • Women’s Sports Foundation     
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