By Matthew Lavietes
NEW YORK, March 17 (Openly) - Idaho may be poised to become the first U.S. state to ban transgender athletes from playing in sports leagues that differ from their gender at birth, a move that LGBT+ rights supporters condemned as "discriminatory and harmful."
State Senate lawmakers approved the measure on Monday, sending it back to the House of Representatives for a vote. If it passes the House, which it did once before, the measure heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Brad Little.
If it is signed into law, Idaho would become the first state to impose the controversial restriction.
The governor has not indicated publicly where he stands on the bill, telling local media he had not seen it and voicing concern over whether it would withstand legal challenges over its constitutionality.
The bill would ban trans girls and women from competing on girls' or women's sports leagues affiliated with the state's public school system.
Proponents of the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" say transgender girls and women, who formerly were male, would have unfair physical advantages in competition.
"Under this bill, boys and men will not be able to take the place of girls and women in sports because it is not fair," State Rep. Barbara Ehardt, who introduced the bill, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an emailed statement.
Girls and women "simply cannot physically compete against them due to their inherent biological advantages," she said.
LGBT+ rights supporters counter that the measure, called House Bill 500, would be unfair to trans athletes.
"House Bill 500 is a discriminatory and harmful bill that would prevent student athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity," said GLAAD, a U.S.-based LGBT+ advocacy group, in a statement.
The bill "could set a dangerous precedent for similar bills throughout the country."
Male-to-female trans athletes have been allowed to compete in the International Olympic Games since 2016 if their testosterone levels meet a certain low level for a year.
The Idaho measure is one of several being considered that affect U.S. trans rights.
Lawmakers in Missouri are considering a measure requiring parents who provide hormone treatments and puberty blockers to their trans children be reported to child welfare authorities, while Republican legislators in Texas, Georgia and Kentucky have proposed banning gender reassignment treatment for minors.
(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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