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Federal appeals court rules in favor of transgender girl affected by West Virginia sports ban

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Prohibits transgender athletes

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The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made a decision in favor of a transgender teenager who took legal action against West Virginia regarding the state’s policy that prohibits transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports teams in public schools and colleges.

2-1 ruling

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In a 2-1 ruling, the court supported Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 13-year-old, who contended that the law prevented her from joining the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her middle school.

Violated

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The court, located in Richmond, Virginia, determined that the state law violated Title IX, a federal law aimed at preventing sex-based discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding.

Offering a choice

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“Offering B.P.J. a ‘choice’ between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is no real choice at all,” Judge Toby Heytens wrote, using the plaintiff’s initials.

Medical treatment

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“The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy.”

Joshua Block

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Joshua Block, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “This is a tremendous victory for our client, transgender West Virginians, and the freedom of all youth to play as who they are,” Block said in a statement.

Ruling against

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“It also continues a string of federal courts ruling against bans on the participation of transgender athletes and in favor of their equal participation as the gender they know themselves to be. This case is fundamentally about the equality of transgender youth in our schools and our communities and we’re thankful the Fourth Circuit agreed.”

West Virginia Education Department

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A spokesperson for the West Virginia Education Department said it had just received the ruling and was “not in a position to comment at this time.”

Patrick Morrisey

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West Virginia’s Republican Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, who represented the state in the case, expressed his strong disappointment in a statement following the court’s ruling. Morrisey pledged to challenge the decision and continue to fight against it.

Women’s sports

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“We must keep working to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field,” he said. “We know the law is correct and will use every available tool to defend it.”

Controversy

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The ongoing controversy surrounding the participation of transgender athletes in sports that correspond to their gender identities remains a divisive issue in the nation’s cultural debates.

Transgender sports

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Governor Jim Justice, a Republican from West Virginia, signed the state’s transgender sports legislation into effect in 2021, positioning West Virginia as one of the initial states to impose restrictions on trans athletes.

24 states

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Currently, 24 states have enacted similar laws, as reported by the Movement Advancement Project, a research organization monitoring LGBTQ-related policies.

Halted

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Despite some laws being temporarily halted by injunctions in states like Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, proponents of these measures argue that transgender girls and women possess inherent physical advantages over cisgender counterparts, leading to concerns about fairness and safety in girls’ and women’s sports.

Judge G. Steven Agee

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Judge G. Steven Agee, in his dissent during the recent ruling, seemed to share this perspective.

Biological girls

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“By continuing to allow B.P.J.—and transgender girls like B.P.J.—to participate on girls’ teams, the number of displaced biological girls will expand exponentially,” Agee wrote. “Further, as the spots on teams become more limited, B.P.J. will prevent other biological girls from participating on the teams altogether, thereby denying them any athletic opportunity.”

Critics

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Critics view the laws as discriminatory measures aimed at discouraging transgender individuals from engaging in sports.

Suspension

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Following the temporary suspension of the law by the appeals court in February 2023, Pepper-Jackson has been granted permission to join her school’s girls’ cross-country team.

Keep going

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“I want to keep going because this is something I love to do, and I’m not just going to give it up,” she previously told NBC News. “This is something I truly love, and I’m not going to give up for anything.”

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