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LWVUS Joins Lawsuit to Protect Transgender Women in Sports

WASHINGTON – The League of Women Voters of the United States joined civil rights partners on an amicus brief in the case of Hecox v. Little, a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The Idaho law currently prohibits transgender students from taking part in female sports, and the harms would be felt by trans students as well as by intersex persons, non-binary persons, and many cisgender women and girls. The district court concluded that the Act constitutes a violation of the equal protection clause and the amicus brief highlights that the Act also violates Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in educational programs or activities. The League and partners joined this case to be in solidarity with all women and non-binary persons who deserve equal treatment under the law. 

“This is an egregious example of sex discrimination that has the potential to create unacceptable and possibly permanent harm and trauma for women and children who wish to participate in athletic programs,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States and a practicing gynecologist for more than 35 years. “Gender testing has long been used to attack Black and Brown female athletes, and this law follows that appalling practice, which will disproportionately target women and girls of color. The League is horrified and ashamed that in our country, this invasion of privacy known to have lasting negative mental and physical impacts on individuals could become the law.”

The Idaho law’s dispute process allows any person to question for any reason whether a person is a girl or a woman, and then shifts the physical and financial burden onto the challenged student to verify their sex by an invasive and unnecessary physical exam including invasive hormone and chromosome testing. The lack of objective standards in determining who is subjected to these examinations creates a grave opportunity for misconduct and for harassment and bullying of both transgender and cisgender women and girls.

“This case highlights the importance of protecting women, girls, and nonbinary individuals in sports and we implore the court to support the targeted athletes,” said Susan Ripley, president of League of Women Voters of Idaho. “The Idaho League’s membership is politically and ideologically diverse but we are unified in understanding the importance of pushing back on this invasive rule that will have ramifications for years to come for those subject to it.”  

“Transgender and intersex persons will be harmed by the enforcement of this law as well as cisgender women who stand to be singled out for their physical appearance,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “No woman or girl should have to endure this kind of sexual scrutiny by their peers or trusted adults, especially within the school environment which is designed for enrichment and fairness. This law does nothing to protect women, and it runs contrary to the League’s stated goal of securing equal rights and opportunities for all.”

The League of Women Voters and partners are represented by the National Women’s Law Center and the Hogan Lovells law firm. The National Women’s Law Center is proud to partner with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and lead 60 additional organizations to support the fight against Idaho’s law that imposes a blanket ban on women and girls who are transgender from participating on women and girls' student sports teams.

“This is certainly sex discrimination and this law violates both the U.S. Constitution and Title IX," confirms Sunu P. Chandy, NWLC’s legal director confirms. “Our brief highlights the ways that this kind of policing of bodies leads to the targeting of all women and girls who don’t conform to others’ expectations regarding sex stereotypes in their gender presentation and additional targeting of Black and Brown student athletes. We urge the court to uphold the decision to stop this illegal law that harms all women and girls.”

“If some members of the Idaho legislature and the governor sought to improve the lives of all women and girls by endorsing the ill-conceived and bigoted HB 500, they have failed and actually accomplished the exact opposite,” said Bryanna Jenkins, legal fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Sex and race discrimination pervade the history of athletics. H.B. 500 constitutes another chapter in this shameful history and is a law that will have a particularly devastating impact on women and girls of color.”

In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status constituted sex discrimination for the purposes of Title VII, and that firing someone based on their sexual orientation or transgender status constituted sex discrimination. The League and partners believe the law at the heart of Hecox v. Little violates Title IX protections and should be deemed illegal.

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Read the full amicus brief HERE.

Contact: Sarah Courtney | 202-263-1332 | [email protected]