One of several Republican-backed laws attacking LGBTQ rights throughout the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday declined to let West Virginia implement a state law preventing transgender athletes from participating on female sports teams at public schools.
The justices rejected West Virginia’s plea to withdraw the injunction against the legislation that a lower court had placed during the ongoing legal dispute over its legitimacy filed by Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 12-year-old transgender child. Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, two conservative justices, openly disagreed with the ruling.
The rule, which was approved in 2021, prohibits male students from participating in female athletic teams “based exclusively on the individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” and assigns sports teams at public schools and colleges according to “biological sex.”
In the lawsuit, Pepper-Jackson and her mother Heather claimed that the law discriminates based on sex and transgender status in violation of both the Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, and the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The tweet below posted by Human Rights Campaign, wrote ” This is a major victory”
Fantastic news! ALL kids deserve to play sports alongside their peers. 🏳️⚧️
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 6, 2023
In a court document, West Virginia argued that in situations “where biological disparities between males and girls are the fundamental reason that separate teams exist,” it is permissible to create sporting teams based on sex rather than gender identity.
While “very upset” by the outcome, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey expected the state would eventually succeed. He said that it was just fair and sensible to exclude biological men from participating in women’s sports.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal advocacy organization, stated in a statement that “this was a baseless and callous attempt to exclude Becky from where she belongs-playing among her classmates as a teammate and as a friend.” Along with the Cooley legal team, the organizations are defending Pepper-Jackson.
After Pepper-Jackson was denied the opportunity to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams, she filed a lawsuit. Pepper-Jackson is a middle school student in the Bridgeport, West Virginia community.
Republicans have pushed for a surge of anti-LGBT legislation in a number of states, restricting transgender athletes’ access to gender-affirming medical treatment and banning the teaching of classes about sexual orientation and gender identity. On Friday, a federal court temporarily overturned a Tennessee statute that prohibited drag shows in public.
After its 2020 decision protecting homosexual and transgender workers under a long-standing federal rule banning employment discrimination, the West Virginia case forced the Supreme Court to address the question of transgender rights, a significant battleground in American cultural warfare.
The law was first suspended by U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, enabling Pepper-Jackson to take part in the competition. But, the court made a U-turn in January and determined that the state action was legitimate.
After that, the 4th Circuit ordered an injunction while the lawsuit is still pending.
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