A federal district court on Jan. 5 ruled that West Virginia’s “Save Women’s Sports Bill” does not violate the rights of a transgender student who wanted to play on girls’ teams.
The bill, which was enacted in 2021, states that participation for sports events is to be based on the biological sex of the athlete at birth.
An 11-year-old biological male who identifies as female (referred to as B.P.J. in court documents) wanted to try out for the middle school’s girls’ cross-country and track teams, but when the law passed, the school informed B.P.J.’s mother that B.P.J. would not be permitted to try out for the girls’ teams. B.P.J. filed suit, claiming that the state’s actions violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and also Title IX.
The court allowed a former West Virginia State University soccer player, Lainey Armistead, to intervene as a defendant in the case. Armistead, who captained the women’s soccer team, said she did so to help protect both fairness and safety in women’s sports.
Judge Joseph R. Goodwin noted that although “B.P.J., like all transgender people, deserves respect and the ability to live free from judgment and hatred,” the state has a valid interest in providing equal athletic opportunities for females, and the state law in question is substantially related to that government interest.
B.P.J. had also argued that the law violates Title IX, the federal law that gives women athletes the right to equal opportunity in sports in educational institutions that receive federal funds. B.P.J. said that West Virginia’s law effectively amounts to complete exclusion from school sports for transgender girls.
The judge disagreed. “Transgender girls are not excluded from school sports entirely,” he wrote. “They are permitted to try out for boys’ teams, regardless of how they express their gender.”
Following the ruling, Armistead commented: “I believe that protecting fairness in women’s sports is a women’s rights issue. This isn’t just about fair play for me; it’s about protecting fairness and safety for female athletes across West Virginia. It’s about ensuring that future generations of female athletes are not discriminated against but have access to the same equal athletic opportunities that shaped my life. Being an athlete in college has made me even more passionate about the sport that I play. I want fairness, equality, and safety in sports. And I want to ensure those standards are protected for other girls, too.”
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom