West Va. Appeals to Supreme Court on Women’s Sports Law

West Va. Appeals to Supreme Court on Women’s Sports Law

The West Virginia attorney general and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have asked the Supreme Court to reverse a federal court injunction that prevents a West Virginia law that bars transgender athletes from competing in amateur women’s sports from going into effect.

The Save Women’s Sports Law has been held up by a series of legal volleys. West Virginia enacted the law in 2021 to keep biological males who identify as females from competing in women’s athletics in the middle school, high school and college ranks. The American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBT group Lambda Legal challenged the law in 2021 on behalf of an 11-year-old biological male student—identifying as Becky—who sought to compete on a middle school girls’ cross country team.

A federal district court judge initially blocked the law, but on Jan. 5, the same district court judge denied the claims made by the ACLU and Lambda Legal that the law violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal treatment and Title IX federal sex discrimination statutes. The ruling would have paved the way for the state to enforce the law. But the victory was short-lived; the U.S. 4th Circuit intervened to block the law from taking effect as it reviews the case.

So on March 9, Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s Republican attorney general, filed an application at the high court alongside ADF, asking the justices to vacate the U.S. 4th Circuit’s injunction. ADF is legally representing former West Virginia State University soccer athlete Lainey Armistead, who has sought to defend the law in the face of the ACLU lawsuit.

“The West Virginia legislature passed the women’s sports law, the governor signed it, and a federal district court affirmed it is fully constitutional,” wrote Christiana Kiefer, ADF senior counsel. “There is no reason that the law should not be enforced, and the 4th Circuit wrongly cast doubt on the law with its decision to pause its enforcement….

“For the first time, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to protect fairness in women’s sports from today’s threats. It’s time for the Court to follow biological reality and ensure equal opportunities for female athletes.”

Armistead said after the favorable Jan. 5 ruling, “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.”

Morrisey tweeted after the Supreme Court filing, “It’s fundamentally unfair to allow biological males to compete on women’s sports teams. Our WV law is constitutional & must remain in effect!”

According to the Family Policy Alliance, 18 states have passed laws seeking to protect the integrity of women’s sports, but West Virginia’s appeal is the first of its kind to be considered for review by the Supreme Court, ADF says.

Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

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