A federal lawsuit has been filed challenging West Virginia’s new ban on transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports in middle and high schools and colleges.
Charleston, WA – A federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday, challenging West Virginia’s new ban on transgender athletes competing in women’s sports in middle and high schools and colleges.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its West Virginia Chapter sued on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who was expected to compete in cross country at Middle School in Harrison County. The lawsuit names the state and Harrison County Board of Education and their superintendents as defendants.
“I just want to run.” I come from a family of runners, ”student Becky Pepper-Jackson said in a statement released by the ACLU. “I know how damaging a law like this is for all kids like me who just want to play games with their classmates, and I’m doing it for them. Trans kids deserve better.”
There have also been restrictions on school sports participation in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Montana this year. The government of South Dakota Christie Noam implemented the move by executive order. Other states, including Kansas and North Dakota, passed restrictions only to be vetoed by the governor.
A 2017 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School used state-level, population-based surveys to estimate the age of 13 to 17 in all states that identified as transgender in West Virginia. Had the highest percentage of residents (1.04%). This was equivalent to about 1,150 teenagers.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activity Commission, which oversees educational sports, said earlier this year that it had not received any complaints about transgender athletes in girls’ teams.
ACLU attorney Joshua Block said in a statement, “Transgender youth in West Virginia who want to be on a team and want to challenge themselves should have the opportunity to do so.”
State schools superintendent Clayton Burch did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Before it was overwhelmingly approved in the House of Delegates, the bill passed the state Senate, which added a college component.
Many Democrats said the bill was discriminatory, while some Republicans said the bill was about ensuring an equal playing field for biologically female athletes. Proponents have argued that transgender athletes will have physical benefits in women’s sports.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill despite some lawmakers warning that the NCAA could retaliate and decide not to hold college tournaments in the state. Justice had said that while it worried him that the state might miss a sporting event, he believed the benefits of the law “far outweighed the bad part of it.”
In March, hundreds of college athletes signed a letter to the NCAA Board of Governors asking the organization to refuse to schedule championships in states that have banned transgender athlete’s participation in sports.
In 2016 the NCAA moved the championship from North Carolina in response to a bill legislating the use of public restrooms of transgender people.