Court Backs Trans School Athlete In West Virginia Ban

Trans School Athlete West Virginia

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a transgender middle-school girl in West Virginia can compete in her school’s girls’ track and cross-country teams.

The court’s 2-1 decision blocked enforcement of a state law prohibiting transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. U.S. Circuit Judge Toby Heytens, appointed by Democratic President Joe Biden, stated that requiring the girl to compete on boys’ teams was not a real choice.

He argued it would directly contradict treatment protocols for gender dysphoria and violate Title IX. Heytens’ opinion was supported by Circuit Judge Pamela Harris, appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama. However, the court did not strike down the law entirely.

Heytens clarified that the ruling did not mandate transgender girls’ participation on girls’ teams regardless of puberty status.

Joshua Block of the ACLU hailed the ruling as a victory for transgender rights and youth freedom. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, expressed deep disappointment and vowed to continue defending the law.

Fair competition

Morrisey stressed the law’s importance in ensuring fair competition for girls. Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender eighth grader at Bridgeport Middle School, has competed in track and field for three seasons.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, signed the Save Women’s Sports Act in 2021, barring transgender girls from girls’ teams. Similar laws exist in 22 other states, with one in Idaho blocked by the 9th Circuit in 2023.

Pepper-Jackson and her mother sued state authorities to prevent enforcement of the law.

Initially ruled against, they secured a hold on the ruling pending appeal, which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift in April 2023. U.S. Circuit Judge G. Steven Agee, appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush, dissented, arguing that the majority’s interpretation of Title IX went beyond its intent.

He contended that gender identity does not influence sports and does not alter biology or physical characteristics.