Judge Blocks Idaho Law Targeting Trans Student Athletes

San Francisco – August 19, 2020 – A federal judge blocked Idaho’s recently enacted law targeting transgender student athletes, recognizing that “the Constitution must always prevail.” HB 500, signed into law by Governor Brad Little, made Idaho the first and only state in the nation to ban transgender and intersex athletes from playing school sports. By granting the motion for a preliminary injunction brought by Cooley, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Idaho and Legal Voice, the court’s decision ensures that girls and women who are transgender or intersex will continue to be able to participate in school sports in Idaho. Lawyers Kathleen Hartnett, Elizabeth Prelogar, Andrew Barr and Katelyn Kang are leading the Cooley effort.

The lawsuit was filed in April on behalf of an athlete at Boise State University who is transgender and had been planning to try out for the cross country team and a Boise High School student who is cisgender and concerned about being subjected to invasive sex verification testing under the new law. 

“Idaho’s HB 500 violates both the Constitution and Title IX, and the court’s ruling eloquently explains how it likely violates the equal protection rights not only of our clients but of all women and girl athletes in Idaho,” said Hartnett.

Quoting Prelogar’s oral argument in support of the injunction, the court’s ruling explained that HB 500 “is a law that harms all women in the state,” and “particularly women and girls who are transgender and are now singled out for categorical exclusion.”

“Transgender people belong in Idaho, including on school sports teams,” Ritchie Eppink, legal director for the ACLU of Idaho, added in a news release. “This decision will not only protect women and girls, but also the Idaho economy as businesses have made it clear that they do not want to support any attack on transgender students. This is a welcome first step, and our fight for Lindsay, Jane Doe and others impacted by this law is not over.”

In 2020, more than 200 anti-LGBTQ+ laws were active in state legislatures, including dozens targeting transgender youth. HB 500 replaced Idaho’s already restrictive policy on participation of transgender athletes in high school athletics – a policy that required transgender girls to complete one year of hormone therapy as part of gender transition before competing in girls’ sports.

Legal Voice is a progressive feminist nonprofit organization using the power of the law to make positive change for women, girls and LGBTQ+ people in the Northwest. An affiliate of the national ACLU, the ACLU of Idaho has been at the forefront of defending the Constitutional rights of Idahoans for more than 25 years. 

Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations, including numerous organizations that focus on LGBTQ+ rights, to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.

Read the full press release from the ACLU

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Related Contacts
Kathleen R. Hartnett Partner, San Francisco
Elizabeth Prelogar Partner, Washington, DC
Andrew Barr Associate, Colorado
Katelyn Kang Associate, New York
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Pro Bono