A federal judge in West Virginia has upheld a state law banning biological male athletes who identify and present as women from playing on all-girls’ school sports teams.
Justice Joseph R. Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia said Thursday that the Women’s Sports Bill, HB 3293, which defines “girls” and “women” as biologically female for the purposes of secondary school sports, is “constitutionally unacceptable.” Permissible.” The court found that West Virginia’s definition of “biological sex” in school sports was “substantially relevant to the important concern of providing equal opportunity for women to exercise.” .
“There is no question that HB 3293 was intended to politicize school athletics participation for transgender students,” Goodwin wrote. “Nevertheless, there is not a good record of legislative hostility. Given the law under the medium scrutiny standard, we find that it is substantively related to important government interests.”
The law, introduced in March 2021, is one of several recent attempts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to ban transgender student-athletes from competing with members of the opposite sex. Critics say such efforts are hateful, discriminatory, and even harmful to transgender youth. It counters that it makes physical competition between athletes and girls unfair and may deny women opportunities.
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The “Save Women’s Sports Bill” was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, representing Becky Pepper Jackson, a transgender middle school student who was barred from participating in the women’s cross-country team. The ACLU argued that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Pepper Jackson’s rights under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
Goodwin agreed that the law was designed to “prevent transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams,” but if there was any substantial government interest in doing so, this would not be the case. said to be legally permissible.
He refused to define the terms “girl” or “woman,” saying, “The courts have no business in making such definitions. There are many other legal considerations where sex and sex are relevant legislative considerations.” It would be difficult to find a situation.” However, he pointed out the biological differences between men and women that are relevant to athletics.
“While some women may be able to outperform some men, on average, men outperform women in athletic performance because of the inherent physical differences between men and women. is also generally accepted as superior, which is not an over-generalization but a realistic difference in average physique between men and women,” Goodwin writes.
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Although Pepper-Jackson is on a pubertal blocker, Goodwin wonders whether “post-pubertal hormone therapy can reduce the athletic advantage of transgender girls over cisgender girls, and There is much debate about its extent. He also noted that some transgender people may transition only socially, not medically and physically.
“However, transgender girls are biologically male and, in the absence of medical intervention, go through male puberty just like any other biological male. states are allowed to make sports rules on this basis, and the resulting physical characteristics have a great deal to do with athletic performance and fairness in sport. I do,” he ruled.
West Virginia’s ACLU said it is reviewing a decision with joint counsel to determine its next steps. This ban applies not only to colleges, but also to middle and high schools.
The decision was hailed by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who defended the law in court.
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In a statement, Morrissey said, “It’s not just about the simple biology, it’s about fairness in women’s sport, plain and simple.” The future must be protected, and protecting these opportunities is important because when biological men compete in women’s events, women and girls lose the chance to shine.”
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Board, which oversees educational sports, said it had received no complaints about transgender players on the girls’ team when the lawsuit was filed in 2021.
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A 2017 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School used state-level population-based surveys to find that among all states that West Virginia identified as transgender, 13- to 17-year-olds We estimated the percentage of residents to be the highest (1.04%). This equates to approximately 1,150 teenagers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.