Washington and Idaho Tackle LGBTQ+ Hate Crimes and Gender-Affirming Care with New Legislation

Spokane, Washington and Boise, Idaho have taken vastly different approaches when it comes to addressing issues impacting LGBTQ+ communities. The divergent paths taken by lawmakers in these neighboring states highlight the ongoing battles over LGBTQ+ rights and discrimination.

Idaho made headlines in its recent legislative session when it passed House Bill 71, a controversial measure that restricts transgender minors from obtaining gender-affirming care. The law, slated to go into effect on January 1, has faced legal challenges over its constitutionality, effectively delaying its enforcement for now.

Meanwhile, across the border in Washington, state legislators have been proactive in strengthening hate crime laws. Two bills in the state Senate have passed, aiming to broaden the definition of hate crimes and address bias-motivated defacement of both private and public property. These bills have garnered support from many lawmakers, but not without opposition from certain Republicans who argue that the legislation is too broad in scope.

The importance of these legislative efforts becomes apparent when looking at recent events. In October, vandals in Spokane, Washington targeted the city’s rainbow crosswalks and defaced them with paint. While the act may have been seen as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community, it could not be classified as a hate crime under current Washington law, as defacing public property is not explicitly covered.

The vandalism incident prompted Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig to introduce Senate Bill 5917, which would expand the hate crime definition to include bias-motivated defacement of both public and private property. The bill passed a floor vote, although it faced opposition from State Sen. Mike Padden, who argued that it lacked specificity and could lead to questionable cases.

Another bill, Senate Bill 5427, aims to establish reporting hotlines for hate crimes in Washington. The bill passed in the Senate mainly along party lines, signaling the divide on the issue. Both bills have now been referred to House committees for further consideration.

In Idaho, where House Bill 71 has ignited significant controversy, two anonymous teenagers who are currently receiving gender-affirming care filed a lawsuit against Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador and Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Jan Bennetts. The plaintiffs argue that the law violates the rights of transgender youth and their parents under the U.S. Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Labrador, in defense of the law, maintains that it does not discriminate based on transgender status but rather aims to regulate medical and surgical treatments for individuals with gender dysphoria. The case is ongoing, with preliminary injunctions blocking the law’s enforcement until the legal proceedings are concluded.

The legislative battles in Washington and Idaho underscore the complex and contentious nature of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. As lawmakers on both sides of the issue continue to push for their respective goals, the legal system will ultimately determine the fate of these laws and their impact on the LGBTQ+ communities in these states.