Rights for transgender people have been a widely discussed topic in recent years. Throughout his presidency, former President Trump dismantled many protections for transgender people, including rolling back rules that protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, healthcare, and in school. This included the Department of Education announcing that Title IX prohibits transgender students from playing school sports with their peers. President Biden has publicly denounced Trump’s treatment of transgender rights and has continued to express his support for the Equality Act, which would add protections against discrimination of gender identity to existing civil rights laws. Despite this, eleven states currently have discriminatory policies that create barriers for transgender students to be involved with high school athletics.
One such state is Idaho. In 2020, Idaho became the first state to pass laws that prohibited transgender women from playing on the sports teams that match their gender identity. This law faced widespread criticism from Idaho businesses, athletes, and citizens, many of whom cited the lack of evidence that transgender women have an unfair advantage in sports. Supporters of the law often bring up the unfair biological advantage transgender women may have when competing on women’s sports teams. However, studies show that transgender women do not have a higher rate of success than their cisgender counterparts.
Since the signing of this law, five other states have followed suit, including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia. However, Idaho is facing an uphill battle in maintaining the law. Earlier this month, the constitutionality of the law was argued in front of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth District. While no decision has been made yet, this case has the potential to set a precedent for the rights of transgender students across the country.
Upholding Idaho’s ban on transgender women in sports would be a gross misrepresentation of the United States Constitution. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Harris Funeral Homes Inc v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al that the protections against discrimination based on race, sex, or religion included in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extend to transgender people. Furthermore, the 14th amendment requires that no state shall deny “equal protection of the law” to any person. Given the lack of evidence that transgender women have an unfair athletic advantage, restricting their participation in sports is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The precedent is clear: the United States has already established that transgender people shall not be discriminated against based on their gender identity. The Court should uphold this principle and prevent Idaho from putting this law into action, hopefully halting a new dangerous precedent.
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