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Two Female Athletes Ask 9th Circuit to Protect Fair Competition in Idaho

Two female athletes in Idaho are seeking to ensure that women and girls have the chance to compete.
Alliance Defending Freedom
ADF attorneys are representing two female athletes and defending Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.

In 2020, Idaho passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. This law ensures that only females are competing in sports designated for girls and women.

Seems like common sense, right?

Well, not to everyone. Many athletic conferences across the country have implemented policies that allow males who identify as female to compete on women’s and girls’ teams.

And many female athletes are already feeling the effects of such policies. Science and common sense tell us that males are generally bigger, faster, and stronger than females. They have larger hearts and lungs, denser bones, and stronger muscles. No amount of testosterone suppression can eliminate all those advantages.

In Connecticut, two male athletes have taken 15 women’s state championship titles that were previously held by nine different girls. In Idaho, a male athlete crushed the competition and took first place in the women’s mile at the 2020 NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference Championships.

Two female athletes at Idaho State University witnessed the latter example—a result that knocked one of their teammates off the medal podium and into fourth place. So they decided to do something about it.

Madison Kenyon, left, and Mary Kate Marshall are speaking up to defend Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.

Who are Madison Kenyon and Mary Kate Marshall?

Madison and Mary Kate competed on the women’s cross-country and track teams at Idaho State University.

In the fall of 2019, their cross-country coach informed the team that they would be racing against a male athlete from the University of Montana in the upcoming season. In the previous three years, while competing on the men’s team, that male athlete had posted times that were faster than the women’s national records.

Sure enough, Madison and Mary Kate found themselves at the starting line next to this athlete. And like most other girls, they lost.

When Madison and Mary Kate first heard about Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, they were excited about this commonsense legislation.

Both Madison and Mary Kate have benefited from sports in many ways. Their participation has helped them develop work ethic, time management skills, and lifelong relationships. It has also helped them pay for school.

They want to ensure that female athletes continue to have the same access to these benefits.

Hecox v. Little

Shortly after Idaho passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, the ACLU filed a lawsuit. It is attempting to strike down the law and subject female athletes like Madison and Mary Kate to unfair competitive conditions that prioritize gender ideology over biological realities.

But there are real physical differences between men and women, and those differences matter. Idaho's Fairness in Women’s Sports Act simply acknowledges this reality.

Female athletes deserve a voice in this lawsuit and the opportunity to protect women’s sports in Idaho. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Madison and Mary Kate in court.

What’s at stake?

The biological differences between men and women are real, and they matter. That’s why we have separate men’s and women’s sports. Every male on a podium displaces a deserving female, and when schools and society ignore these differences, girls and women pay the price.

Case timeline

  • March 2020: Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act into law. Idaho was the first state to pass such a law protecting equal opportunities for women and girls.
  • May 2020: ADF asked to intervene in the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of Madison and Mary Kate.
  • August 2020: A federal court allowed Madison and Mary Kate to intervene in the lawsuit and speak up on behalf of Idaho’s law. Unfortunately, the court also halted enforcement of the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act while the lawsuit continues, which means male athletes who identify as women will still be able to compete against women and girls.
  • September 2020: ADF appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
  • May 2021: ADF attorneys and attorneys representing the state of Idaho presented arguments in this case to a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit.
  • June 2021: The 9th Circuit remanded the case back to the district court to resolve a procedural issue.
  • November 2022: ADF attorneys together with attorneys for the state of Idaho presented arguments before a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit for the second time.
  • August 2023: After an unfavorable ruling from the panel, ADF attorneys asked the full 9th Circuit to review the case.

The bottom line

Women deserve to compete on a level playing field and shouldn’t be spectators in their own sports. Allowing males to compete in women’s sports diminishes women’s athletic opportunities and destroys fair competition.

Learn more:

Madison Kenyon shares her experience of having to compete against a male athlete: