CHARLESTON, Va. — A federal judge ruled Thursday that West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes from girls’ school sports is constitutional and remains in effect.
“I recognize that being transgender is natural and not a choice,” U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin wrote in the ruling. “But gender is also natural and dictates physical characteristics associated with sport.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and its West Virginia chapter have filed a lawsuit in 2021 on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who wanted to compete in a Harrison County Middle School cross-country race. The lawsuit named state and county boards of education and their superintendents as defendants.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey praised Thursday’s decision.
“This is not just about simple biology, it’s about fairness in women’s sport, plain and simple,” the attorney general said. “The opportunities for girls and women on the field are precious and we must protect their future.”
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.
Plaintiffs’ lawsuit did not challenge whether schools should be allowed to have separate sports teams for boys and girls. The Save Women’s Sports Bill, signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice, said it meant those who were assigned the female gender at birth.
“Congress’s definition of a ‘girl’ as being based on ‘biological sex’ is substantively linked to the government’s key concern of providing equal sporting opportunities for women,” Goodwin said. decided.
The judge also dismissed plaintiffs’ claims that the state law violated Title IX, the landmark gender equality law enacted in 1972.
Goodwin issued an interim injunction temporarily blocking the state ban in July 2021.
In Thursday’s ruling, the plaintiff said, “Like all transgender people, she deserves respect and the ability to simply live free of criticism and hatred for who she is.” We did not find sufficient evidence that the bill was passed with harmful intent.
Goodwin noted that at the time the bill was passed, there were no widespread reports of transgender girls participating in sports. But it is clear that the ‘problem’ has not yet been recognized.”
Had Congress not done so, there would have been no reason for the courts to intervene in the matter, he continued. “Nevertheless, I must do so now,” the judge concluded.
The athletic competence of transgender athletes is the subject of an ongoing national debate. More than a dozen states have passed laws prohibiting or limiting participation based on the premise of an unfair competitive advantage, although there have been no widespread cases.
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.
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 about 1,150 of her teens.