Barbara Ehardt trans athletes hearing

Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, center, listens to testimony on her bill to ban transgender females from participating in school sports on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.

A socially conservative legal group is asking a federal appeals court to let the state of Idaho enforce a law barring transgender girls and women from playing on female high school and college sports teams.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped to craft House Bill 500, is now representing two Idaho State University cross country and track runners who support the bill and who are, along with the state, defending it against a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the progressive feminist group Legal Voice. Also called the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, it was supposed to take effect on July 1, but Chief U.S. District Judge David Nye barred its enforcement in August as the case works its way through the courts, writing in his order that the plaintiffs are “likely to succeed in establishing the act is unconstitutional as currently written.” However, he did say in the same order that ISU athletes Madison Kenyon and Mary Kate Marshall could join the case.

On Wednesday, the Alliance Defending Freedom’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to take up Nye’s preliminary injunction.

“Males and females both should have the chance to enjoy opportunities for fair competition and victory,” Kenyon said. “Allowing males to enter our sports isn’t fair. It changes everything because it eliminates the connection between an athlete’s effort and her success. Idaho’s law helps make sure that, when women like me work hard, that hard work pays off, and we have a shot at winning.”

House Bill 500 was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, and is the first law of its kind in the country. Along with another bill passed this year barring transgender people from changing their sex on their birth certificates, it was one of the most controversial laws of the 2020 session. Both passed with almost unanimous Republican support and unanimous Democratic opposition, amid protests from civil rights groups and members of the transgender community.

As well as backing legislation like House Bill 500 in Idaho and in other states, the Alliance is also representing the plaintiffs in a Connecticut lawsuit challenging a policy letting transgender athletes compete on school teams that match their gender identity and not their birth sex.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.