The state of California is restricting state-funded travel to Idaho, citing two laws passed this year that critics say discriminate against transgender people.
The first bill in question, House Bill 500 or the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, bars transgender girls and women from competing on female high school and college sports teams. The second, House Bill 509 or the Idaho Vital Statistics Act, restricts amendments to birth certificates, effectively banning transgender people from amending an Idaho birth certificate to match their gender identity.
“Where states legislate discrimination, California unambiguously speaks out,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a news release. “The state of Idaho has taken drastic steps to undermine the rights of the transgender community, preventing people from playing sports in school or having documentation that reflects their identity. Let’s not beat around the bush: these laws are plain and simple discrimination. That’s why Idaho joins the list of AB 1887 discriminating states.”
Idaho now joins a list of 11 other, mostly Southern states, to which California bars state-funded travel due to state laws discriminating against gay or transgender people or overriding municipal anti-discrimination ordinances. The ban applies to sports teams at California’s public universities, meaning if they want to travel to Idaho to compete, they need to use private and not state funds to do it. Some California universities have done this in the past to play in major games — for example, San Diego State used private funds to travel to a football bowl game in Texas in 2017 and a basketball tournament game in Kansas in 2018, two other states on the list.
San Diego State and San Jose State are members of the Mountain West Conference for athletics as is Boise State University. BSU’s communications department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We will continue to monitor this,” said Jodi Walker, director of communications for the University of Idaho. “As with many things right now, this is a fast-moving issue, and we do not yet know the impact on the University of Idaho or Vandal Athletics.”
Becerra’s office didn’t answer a request for more details by press time. His announcement comes a week-and-a-half after a coalition of athletes and advocacy groups called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to boycott Idaho over House Bill 500, which would mean moving the first and second round 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship games scheduled to be held at Boise State University. The NCAA moved games out of North Carolina in 2016 in response to a bill regulating transgender bathroom use, and some Democratic-run states and local governments also banned publicly funded travel to North Carolina over that law.
Transgender issues dominated much of the 2020 legislative session, pitting Idaho’s socially conservative super-majority Republican Legislature against civil rights groups and members of the transgender community. Supporters of 509, which was sponsored by Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, said the government has an interest in recording information that accurately reflects the facts at the time of birth, while backers of 500, which was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, say it will protect girls and women from unfair competition from athletes who were born male. Both laws are being challenged in court. Republican lawmakers have introduced bills similar to Ehardt’s in numerous states this year, although hers is the first such to become law.
“I do not believe that protecting the rights of women and girls to participate in athletics or recording objective facts constitute discrimination,” Gov. Brad Little, who signed both bills, said in an email Monday.
Legislative Democrats opposed both bills unanimously. House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, put out a statement saying the problem was “created out of whole cloth by the Legislature” and would deliver another blow to hotels and restaurants that have already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Rubel said, in light of state spending cuts now being considered, “it is beyond infuriating to watch tens of millions of dollars set on fire by a GOP-dominated legislature that seems only to be interested in escalating culture wars.”
“There had never been a single reported problem arising from any transgender athlete in the state of Idaho, nor from any transgender person seeking to revise the gender marker on their birth certificate,” Rubel said. “Now, we face a legal, human rights and financial crisis manufactured by the GOP super-majority. We can’t afford this behavior any longer. Idaho is in a recession and our precious tax dollars must be used for schools, roads and necessary government services.”