BOISE, Idaho (CN) – Idaho Governor Brad Little has approved a trio of bills that target affirmative action and transgender rights in the Gem State.
The first of the bills signed by the Republican governor is a statewide rollback of affirmative action protections. The new law bans state-run agencies, state contractors and public schools from using affirmative action in the employment process.
Supporters of the bill say it will help to ensure fairness and equality, while opponents have suggested that it could result in discriminatory practices toward minorities or other marginalized groups in the state.
The bill saw revisions prior to landing on the governor’s desk. After its initial passage in the Idaho House of Representatives, the Idaho Senate made changes to ensure that the bill would not result in any funding cuts from the federal government. Those against the bill, however, say the amendments essentially canceled out a provision barring discrimination on the basis of several factors including age, race or gender.
The Idaho House the bill along strict party lines, 56-14.
Idaho is not the first state in country to pass restrictions on affirmative action. Over a half a dozen states have in the last two decades passed similar bills, including Florida and New Hampshire.
While other states have attempted these efforts, they have been met with varying degrees of success and controversy. Earlier this month lawmakers in California – which banned affirmative action for state agencies roughly two decades ago – announced an effort to repeal the ban by putting the question before voters in November.
Little also approved two bill targeting transgender Idahoans.
Under a new birth certificate law, transgender individuals will no longer be able to change their listed sex on their official birth certificates and the certificate can only be amended within the first year of its filing. After that, a birth certificate can only be changed for reasons of “fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.”
Little’s approval of the bill comes almost exactly two years after U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale ruled a similar Idaho rule was unconstitutional. Dale said in March 2018 that a law banning transgender people from making birth certificate changes was in direct violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and ordered the ban to be scrapped. Dale also warned the state against future restrictions that would run into the same legal problem.
Legal experts say that the newly approved bill will likely be challenged. An analysis of the bill conducted by the Idaho Attorney General’s office determined the bill could ultimately be deemed unconstitutional.
The attorney general also found defending the bill in court could prove costly. While the state maintains a constitutional defense fund to help pay for legal costs associated with defending such laws, the AG said a proper defense could cost up to $1 million dollars.
The fund reportedly has a current balance of $1.3 million dollars and has not funded a winning case since the mid-1990s.
Backers of the bill, however, saw they are aware of the possible road ahead for the birth certificate bill.
“I think we all understand what the costs and what the risks are in making the decision to go forward,” Republican Senator Jim Rice told The Associated Press.
The second transgender-related bill Little signed bars transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports at public schools, colleges and universities. Supporters of the bill argue the new restrictions will help to ensure fairness in sports because transgender female athletes could have unfair advantages.
Republican Idaho Representative Barbara Ehardt has said that the bill is about ensuring fair opportunities.
“As we look at the culture we’re in right now, to have opportunities taken away from girls and women by boys and men, it’s not right, it’s absolutely not right,” Ehardt said according to Boise news station KBOI.
Opponents say the bill discriminates against transgender girls and women who want to participate in sports, that it will require transgender females to undergo invasive or humiliating tests to prove their gender, and that such restrictions could turn prospective athletes away from sports altogether.
The Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the county, said that the bill marks Idaho as the first state in 2020 to target transgender people in such a direct way.
“We are living in an unprecedented global health crisis, with confirmed cases of Covid-19 increasing on a daily basis in Idaho, across the United States and around the world, but Governor Brad Little and the Idaho Legislature have decided to prioritize the demonization of transgender people,” the group’s president Alphonso David said in a statement.
“This is unacceptable, and a gross misuse of taxpayer funds and trust. Idaho is leading the way in anti-transgender discrimination, and at a time when life is hard enough for everyone, Idaho’s elected leaders will be remembered for working to make their transgender residents’ lives even harder,” he added. “Shame on Governor Little and the legislators who championed these heinous pieces of legislation.”