Idaho's Political Hot Potato: Girls' Sports

April 30, 2020

She didn't just play Division 1 basketball -- she coached it, at four different schools. If anyone knows about women's sports, it's Idaho State Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R). Like a lot of people, she understands that what's at the root of this fight against athletes competing as the gender of their choice isn't prejudice. It's basic fairness. And when her governor signed the bill she'd drafted to protect it, Barbara couldn't have been happier. Then came the news everyone dreaded: far-Left groups were suing to settle the score.

In the states where this debate is playing out (and there are a lot of them) one of the biggest frustrations leaders like Barbara have is the slanted coverage. "The first thing that I think people should know is: bills like this actually are widely supported," she told "Washington Watch's" Sarah Perry. "This is common sense legislation. People use that a lot, but it really is common sense legislation that is supported throughout the nation." She's right. Most Americans agree that girls shouldn't have to compete against biological men -- especially when scholarships and professional opportunities are on the line.

"The problem is," she points out, "once it's brought in the form of legislation, it now becomes politicized. And that's certainly what happened in Idaho with the far-Left." Idaho's legislature may be Republican, Barbara explained, "but we [had] such support that we literally had the [liberal] forces of the entire nation... descending on Idaho and trying to combat this bill. So in that respect, it was hard. But kudos to our governor -- and kudos to every legislator who stood up and supported this bill. It makes sense."

Now, despite facing the prospect of a drawn-out court battle, Barbara is as convinced as ever that Idaho did the right thing. The ACLU, who's suing to stop the law (despite, many believe, not having real standing to do so), argues that "inclusive teams support all athletes and encourage participation." But they must not understand the point of Title IX, which was designed to be exclusive and give women the opportunities that had been, up to that point, partially denied. Instead, what the ACLU is doing -- somewhat ironically, as a bastion of women's lib and equality -- is trying to gut 50 years of female legislative progress.

"It absolutely hits at the core of Title IX," Barbara agreed. "And as I told people during the hearings... I benefited from Title IX. You see, I was one of those kids that grew up born in the 60s. And I was eight years old in 1972 and had no idea the impact the Title IX would have on my life. People used to ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I would tell them -- and this is a true story -- I told them I wanted to play sports." And what did they say back? "'That's not what girls do.' And so Title IX absolutely paved the way. Women who had gone before me paved the way for opportunities like mine. And I feel an obligation to do the same for those who follow."

Of course, the burning question now is whether Governor Little has the stomach to fight this all the way to the end. "I really have that sense," Barbara said. "When Governor Little had this bill placed before him... the governor had 10 days... to sign it. And during those 10 days, again, the continued forces of the Left descended -- including businesses in Idaho who are more concerned about diversity and their perceived [ideas of] discrimination..." And yet still, Governor Little worked through that.

"It would have been so much easier to just veto it. But I think the fact that he has put himself out there and sided with the overwhelming support of the legislature and... the people [sends the message] that this is important. I believe that he will remain with us," Barbara insists. "I've been in contact with our [attorney general's] office, and we're moving forward." For the sake of the dozens of states who'd like to do the same, let's pray they're successful!