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Supreme Court of the United States

Why Two Female Athletes in Idaho Joined a Legal Battle Over a State Law

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
May 3, 2021

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

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 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 these two college athletes decided to do something about it. And now, their case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which will hear oral arguments today.

Who: Madison Kenyon and Mary Kate Marshall

Madison is a sophomore and Mary Kate a junior at Idaho State University. Both compete on the women’s cross country and track teams.

Madison Kenyon (left) and Mary Kate Marshall (right) of Idaho State University
Madison Kenyon (left) and Mary Kate Marshall (right)

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

Sure enough, Madison and Mary Kate found themselves at the starting line next to Eastwood. 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.

What: 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. The 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.

When: May 2020 – Present

In May 2020, ADF asked to intervene in this lawsuit on behalf of Madison and Mary Kate. In June 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case in support of the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.

Fortunately, in August, a federal court allowed Madison and Mary Kate to intervene in the lawsuit and speak up on behalf of Idaho’s commonsense law. But unfortunately, the court also halted enforcement of Idaho’s 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. That’s why, on September 16, 2020, ADF appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. And ADF attorneys together with attorneys representing the State of Idaho will present arguments in this case today, on May 3. 

Where: Idaho

Idaho Governor Brad Little signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act into law on March 30, 2020. Idaho was the first state to pass such a law protecting equal opportunities for women and girls.

Why: To protect equal educational and athletic opportunities for women and girls

The biological differences between men and women are real, and they matter. That’s why we have separate men’s and women’s sports. When schools and society ignore these differences, girls and women pay the price.

The Bottom Line

Women deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing males to compete in women’s sports diminishes women’s athletic opportunities and destroys fair competition.

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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