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Judge strikes down West Virginia law banning biological males from girls’ sports

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a West Virginia law that requires athletes to compete on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex instead of their gender identity.


Judge Joseph Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia, appointed to the bench by former President Bill Clinton, issued a preliminary injunction striking down West Virginia’s “Save Women’s Sports Bill” Wednesday.

“It is clearly in the public interest to uphold [the student’s] constitutional right to not be treated any differently than her similarly situated peers because any harm to [student’s] personal rights is a harm to the share of American rights that we all hold collectively,” Goodwin argued. 

“The right not to be discriminated against by the government belongs to all of us in equal measure. It is that communal and shared ownership of freedom that makes up the American ideal.”

Goodwin’s ruling prevents the state from enforcing one of the law’s provisions while the litigation continues. The provision at issue requires that eligibility for participation in sports events must “be based on the biological sex of the athlete at birth.” This rule applies to “any public secondary school or state institution of higher education.”

Goodwin’s decision comes as the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson, an incoming middle school student born a male and now identifies as female.

Pepper-Jackson wanted to compete on the girls’ cross-country and track teams, but the new law prevented the student from doing so. As a result of Goodwin’s ruling, Pepper-Jackson “will be permitted to sign up for and participate in school athletics the same way as her girl classmates.”

The judge concluded that by preventing Pepper-Jackson from competing on girls’ sports teams, the state of West Virginia violated “the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX” civil rights law in addition to causing the rising sixth grader “irreparable harm.”


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