IDAHO FALLS — It has been two months since a federal judge ruled that a new Idaho law barring transgender people from changing their birth certificates violates a federal injunction, and the state hasn’t done anything to challenge the ruling.
Magistrate Judge Candy Dale held in early August that the law, which was enacted this year, violated an injunction she issued in 2018 directing the state to let transgender people change their sex on their birth certificate to match their gender identity. Soon after the bill passed, Lambda Legal, a pro-gay and transgender rights legal group that represented the plaintiffs in the case that led to the 2018 injunction, took legal action, arguing House Bill 509 violates the injunction and asking the state to clarify how it would be enforced.
Although House Bill 509, sponsored by Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, is still on the books and Dale hasn’t directly ruled on its constitutionality, after she issued her August ruling the state stopped trying to enforce it and reverted back to the previous process that allows transgender people to change their birth certificates.
“However, the door remains open for the state to try to argue that the injunction should be dissolved because of a change in circumstances,” Nora Huppert, one of the Lambda Legal lawyers on the case, said Monday. “It is difficult to see what might have changed since 2018 that would suddenly allow the state to start discriminating against trans people, but we remain vigilant and are ready to fight any such attempts by the state.”
Scott Graf, spokesman for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said the office “won’t have comment other than to say the state continues to evaluate its legal options in regards to this particular matter.”
Debate over transgender issues dominated much of the 2020 legislative session. As well as 509, or the Idaho Vital Statistics Act, lawmakers passed House Bill 509, or the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which bars transgender girls and women from playing on female high school and college sports teams. Both bills passed with almost unanimous Republican support and unanimous Democratic opposition, after often emotional public hearings and amid protests from civil rights groups and members of the transgender community.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the progressive feminist group Legal Voice are suing, seeking to get House Bill 500 declared unconstitutional. Chief U.S. District Judge David Nye stayed the bill’s enforcement in August as the case works its way through the courts. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a socially conservative Arizona-based legal group that helped to craft House Bill 500 and is defending the law alongside the state, is appealing Nye’s stay before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Their appeal is working its way through the process, and the parties have been asked to file legal briefs by Nov. 12.
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