Court Hears Arguments in Legal Battle Over Nation's 1st Law Banning Males from Women's Sports
A U.S. appeals court on Monday gave little indication of how it might rule on the constitutionality of the first law in the nation banning men and boys from playing on female sports teams.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard virtual arguments in the case that could have far-reaching consequences as more states follow Idaho’s lead.
Idaho passed its law last year, and more than 20 states have considered such proposals this year.
Bans have been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. Florida passed a ban that Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will sign into law, and South Dakota’s governor issued an executive order.
On Monday, Republican lawmakers in Kansas failed to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a proposed ban.
The judges on Monday focused at one point on whether the case was still relevant because one of the plaintiffs, Lindsay Hecox, had dropped out of Boise State University after failing to qualify for the women’s cross country team. His attorney said Hecox planned to return in the fall and try out for the team again.
It’s possible the court could rule the case is no longer relevant and dismiss it without ruling on its merits.
Roger Brooks, an attorney with a Christian conservative group defending the Idaho law, said he hoped that would not happen because the case needed a definitive ruling.
“This is a situation that is live and is going to be ongoing,” he said at a news conference after the arguments.
Supporters say such laws are needed because male athletes have physical advantages over females. Opponents say the laws are discriminatory and, in Idaho, an invasion of privacy.
“Ultimately, this is law that harms all women and girls,” said Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is seeking to stop the law from taking effect.
The law prohibits males who identify as female from playing on female teams at public schools, colleges and universities.
It does not apply to men’s teams, which prompted one judge to question whether the law is discriminatory.
“They’re not barred,” Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said. “Anybody can play on the boys’ team whether they’re transgender or not.”
The ACLU and Legal Voice women’s rights group sued last year on behalf of Hecox and an unnamed Boise-area high school student.
The lawsuit contends the law violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Fourth Amendment’s protections against invasion of privacy because of tests required should an athlete’s gender be challenged.
A federal judge in Idaho temporarily blocked the law from taking effect last year. Idaho and the Alliance Defending Freedom appealed.
The group is representing Madison Kenyon of Johnston, Colorado, and Mary Marshall of Twin Falls, Idaho, who run track and cross country on scholarships at Idaho State University and are concerned they could have to compete against men.
The appeals court didn’t indicate when it might issue a ruling.
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