Idaho Governor Bans Trans People From Changing Birth Certificate Gender On Eve of International Transgender Day of Visibility

On the eve of the International Transgender Day of Visibility, Republican Idaho Governor Brad Little signed two bills regarding trans people into law. The first bans trans people from changing the gender marked on their birth certificates, and the second prohibits trans females from competing in women's sports.

The two measures, known as House Bill 500 and House Bill 509, were quietly pushed through by state lawmakers as the U.S. continued their battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. With Idaho's stay-at-home order, protesters were unable to show up to oppose the laws.

The first measure, House Bill 509, only permits birth certificate amendments to be made within one year of its filing. The legislation ignores a federal court ruling that Lambda Legal, an American LGBT rights organization, won in 2018, which declared such a policy unconstitutional. The judge found the law to be in violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, tossed it out and warned officials against enacting similar rules.

Lambda Legal attorney Kara Ingelhart told Newsweek that they intend to relitigate the case to ensure the 2018 ruling is upheld.

"Lambda Legal already sued the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare over birth certificates and won in 2018, and we'll see the state back in federal court again," she said.

Lambda argued that the permanent injunction in F.V. v. Barron bars state officials from enforcing a policy that denies Idaho-born trans people from correcting their birth certificates.

"The policy was unconstitutional two years ago, and it is still unconstitutional today," she said.

Lambda Legal Counsel Pete Renn, a member of the legal team that obtained the 2018 ruling, said that policymakers were "fully aware that they were explicitly flouting a binding federal court order."

Newsweek reached out to Brad Little's office for comment.

The Pride Flag flies majestically over the San Francisco Gay Pride parade on June 30, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Meera Fox/Getty

Critics say the ban attacks the rights of trans people while proponents argue that it is needed to ensure accurate birth records.

Nearly one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a listed name or gender that conflicted with the gender they present as faced discrimination, were declined benefits or physically assaulted, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

"Accurate and matching identity documents are essential to participating in public life and when a transgender person does not have access to them, they can be placed at increased risk for discrimination, harassment, and even violence," Ingelhart said. "Everyone has a right to essential identity documents that accurately reflect who they are."

The second measure, House Bill 500, introduced by Idaho State Representative Barbara Ehardt, will prevent those assigned male at birth from competing against those assigned female at birth on sports teams sponsored by public schools and colleges.

Proponents argue transgender women have a physical advantage in sporting games. "As we look at the culture we're in right now, to have opportunities taken away from girls and women by boys and men, it's not right. It's absolutely not right," Ehardt said.

Critics say the legislation limits transgender youth from having the same experiences as their peers. "Anti-trans student athlete bills like HB 500 deny trans youth the experiences that all students deserve, and single us out for isolation, bullying and violence," said Juniperangelica Cordova, Senior Organizer at TRUTH, a youth media and organizing program of Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network and Transgender Law Center.

Trans women who undergo hormone replacement therapy typically lose any advantage from a male-bodied muscle mass after about a year, according to a report from the NCAA.