Hecox found out late Monday night that she would have a chance to compete after a federal judge placed a preliminary injunction on the law — House Bill 500, also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act — while litigation is pending.
After the law was passed in March, two civil rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Voice, along with a private law firm, filed a federal lawsuit against the state on behalf of Hecox and a Boise High School athlete, who is not a transgender person, arguing that House Bill 500 violated the constitution and Title IX.
In an 87-page ruling filed Monday, U.S. District Judge David Nye said the plaintiffs would probably win in determining that the law is unconstitutional in court.
“The Court recognizes that this decision is likely to be controversial,” Nye wrote. “While the citizens of Idaho are likely to either vehemently oppose, or fervently support, the Act, the Constitution must always prevail.”
Monday’s ruling by Nye was the second this month to reject anti-transgender legislation in Idaho; in early August, a federal judge ruled that a law barring transgender people from altering the gender on their birth certificates was unconstitutional.
Hecox was not available for comment on the injunction but said in a statement through the ACLU: “I feel a major sense of relief. I love running, and part of what I enjoy about the sport is building relationships with a team. I’m a girl, and the right team for me is the girls’ team. It’s time courts recognize that and I am so glad that the court’s ruling does.”
Though Idaho’s law was the first of its kind to be passed, more than a dozen states have recently introduced legislation to ban transgender athletes from competition, including in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio and Tennessee, where lawmakers have argued that transgender athletes are gaining an unfair advantage in sports at all levels at the expense of cisgender girls and women.
House Bill 500 clashes with NCAA policy, which requires one year of hormone treatment to compete on a female team. Advocates and prominent athletes have called for the NCAA to move men’s basketball tournament games scheduled to be played this March in Boise, Idaho’s capital.
“The NCAA is working with national and international groups as it reviews its current transgender athlete policy,” NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said in a statement provided to The Washington Post before the judge’s ruling. “Inclusion and fairness are the objectives in addressing the complex set of issues. The NCAA Board of Governors will hear an update regarding the policy review at its October meeting as it considers future championship host sites. The NCAA is also monitoring the lawsuit involving Idaho Bill 500 and will review the court’s decision when it is made.”
Though Hecox is now eligible to compete under NCAA regulations, it remains unclear when she might be able to try out for the cross-country or track teams at Boise State. The Mountain West Conference, the school’s league, announced this month that it was canceling all fall sports and potentially moving them to the spring because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Hecox said in an interview with The Post in June that she had been in touch with a Boise State assistant cross-country coach this spring and had followed the team’s training regimen throughout the summer to prepare to try out.
“I’m just hoping, when it gets closer to the school year, we can all have a conversation about how much it would mean to me to be on the team. I would have to try out and make the team first of all, but I would hope the coaches and athletic directors would welcome me with open arms,” Hecox said in June. “I specifically chose this school out of many colleges because I love the school. I love Boise State.”