BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers who made it harder for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates despite a U.S. court ruling banning such barriers must pay $321,000 in legal fees to the winning party after losing in the same court.
Republican Gov. Brad Little and Republican Secretary of State Lawerence Denney of the State Board of Examiners on Tuesday approved payment of the winning side’s legal fees set by the court in June.
In March 2018, the court prohibited Idaho from automatically denying requests from transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates. The court ruled that the restriction violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
But lawmakers in 2020 approved a ban anyway, and Little signed the bill into law. The 2018 case was reopened and Idaho again lost, resulting in a $321,000 legal bill. The state previously paid $75,000 after losing the original case in 2018.
The plaintiffs in the case were represented by Lambda Legal, which on its website describes itself as a national legal organization working to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and all people living with HIV. The plaintiffs were seeking approximately $450,000, but the court reduced that amount to what it deemed reasonable taking into account the complexity of the case and the hours billed.
The review board typically sends these bills to the Constitutional Defense Council, made up of the governor, attorney general, and leaders of the House and Senate. The board controls the Constitutional Defense Fund which traditionally is used to pay the winning side’s legal fees when Idaho loses lawsuits. This fund has contributed more than $3 million.
But the council instead sent the bill to the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. The Legislative Assembly is not expected to meet until January. Meanwhile, the $321,000 is growing at a 2.14% interest rate until it’s paid, according to a letter from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to Brian Benjamin at the Comptroller’s Office. the state.
The Legislature has several potential options for footing the bill, Benjamin said. Legislators could send it to the Constitutional Defense Council. There is also the Legislative Legal Defense Fund controlled by House and Senate leaders, currently Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke and Republican Senate Pro-Tem Chairman Chuck Winder.
Finally, legislators could appropriate the money from another source.
Either way, “it’s all taxpayers’ money,” Benjamin noted.