Idaho’s largest employers sent a strong message to the Capitol this week: Drop the legislative attacks on transgender Idahoans. It makes us look unwelcoming, and it’s bad for business.
In a letter to House and Senate leadership, Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters said that since coming to Idaho Falls he has encountered a community where people “treat all individuals with respect and value their coworkers and neighbors for their contributions.”
But the actions of the Legislature are placing that at risk.
“I’m hearing concerns within INL and throughout our community about the substance and tone of discussions taking place this legislative session, and how those negatively impact the way in which Idaho is perceived outside our borders,” Peters wrote. “Frankly, I share those concerns.”
Also this week, Micron, HP, Chobani and Clif Bar said two bills are placing at risk their ability to recruit.
“Passage of these bills could hurt our ability to attract and retain top talent to Idaho, and it could damage Idaho’s ability to attract new businesses and create new jobs,” they said.
Of chief concern is a bill authored by Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot. It would block transgender Idahoans from getting a birth certificate that matches their gender identity, a simple kindness that can help protect them from mistreatment when they have to present identifying papers.
Young’s bill is not only mean-spirited, it’s literally contemptible. The State of Idaho previously blocked transgender citizens from obtaining birth certificates that matched their gender identity. The state was sued in federal court, where a judge found that the rule was unjustifiable on constitutional grounds.
As it’s written, the bill would simply defy the federal court ruling and reinstitute the prior policy of discrimination. But because states are subject to the 14th Amendment, the law won’t be allowed to go into effect.
The Attorney General’s Office, when asked to review Young’s bill, said two things in more politic language:
1. We’re going to get sued, and we’re going to lose.
2. It’s going cost us at least $1,000,000.
So in practical terms, the bill will do only three things: communicate social rejection of our trans neighbors, get the state held in contempt and send a big stack of bills to whatever lawyers would care to sue us.
Young, and many in the Idaho House, are evidently so eager to communicate their rejection of the transgender community that they’re willing to ignore the Equal Protection Clause, endanger the business climate and waste a bunch of money to send that message. But no skin off their necks — they’ll do it with your tax dollars.
Also of concern is a bill sponsored Rep. Barb Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, that would ban transgender women from competing in women’s athletics, preempting the kind of careful, science-driven, sport-by-sport rulemaking that bodies like the NCAA and the Idaho High School Activities Association properly oversee. Like Young’s bill, Ehardt’s is on shaky constitutional ground.
The Senate should reject both of these constitutionally indefensible, socially divisive and economically destructive bills. And Gov. Brad Little should stand ready to veto them if the Senate won’t.
Peters wrote that the state’s leaders “must strive to move forward and resist attempts to march us backwards.” Let’s hope the Senate and Little can rise to that call.
But eastern Idaho voters also need to take a long look in the mirror. Both Ehardt and Young are from our backyard. This attack on the transgender community doesn’t come from the Treasure Valley or the Magic Valley or north Idaho. It comes from here.
If we are the inclusive community that Peters found when coming to Idaho Falls, we need to start voting like it.