A federal judge decided to allow two female track athletes protected by Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act to participate in a federal case about the law’s constitutionality. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Idaho to try to stop the law.
U.S. District Judge David Nye this week granted Alliance Defending Freedom’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit. ADF petitioned the court on behalf of Idaho State students Madison Kenyon and Mary Kate Marshall, both of whom have competed and lost several times to men who identify as women.
“It’s just very discouraging and frustrating because when you’re at the collegiate level, you’re training as hard as you can,” Kenyon told the Independent Women’s Forum. “You’re putting everything out there and skipping other opportunities to run and train.”
Nye also issued a preliminary injunction requested by the ACLU pausing enforcement of Idaho’s law while the lawsuit proceeds. The order allows men to continue competing against women in the state. The ACLU argues the law violates the constitution’s equal protection provisions and Title IX.
ADF attorney Christiana Holcomb took the opposite view. She said legislation in other states that has allowed men to compete in women’s sports “violates the promise and the purpose of Title IX.” The U.S. Department of Justice submitted a statement of interest in the case defending Idaho’s law and refuting the ACLU.
“Under the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause allows Idaho to recognize the physiological differences between the biological sexes in athletics,” Attorney General William Barr wrote. Hundreds of professional, Olympic-level, and collegiate female athletes also support the law.
If the ACLU wins, Holcomb said, “it would send a devastating message to female athletes across the country.” But if the court upholds the law, she hopes other states will follow Idaho’s lead. —Julia A. Seymour