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By Sarah May on
 January 6, 2023

Federal judge upholds WV ban on transgender participation in women's sports

In a crushing blow to Democrats, a federal judge this week deemed constitutional a West Virginia statute banning transgender participation on women's sports teams at the public middle school, high school, and college level, as The Hill reports.

The law at issue, known as the “Save Women's Sports Bill,” was declared consistent with the U.S. Constitution by Judge Joseph Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia in response to litigation initiated by the ACLU on behalf of a transgender middle school student named Becky Pepper-Jackson and which the Biden administration explicitly supported.

Pepper Jackson had endeavored to try out for the girl's cross-country team at her school, something that the West Virginia law precluded.

Lawyers for the student claimed that the prohibition against her participation amounted to a deprivation of her constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and was also a violation of sex discrimination law pursuant to Title IX.

In issuing his ruling, Goodwin found that the West Virginia legislature's determination that the terms “girl” and “woman” are rightly based on biological sex is “substantially related to the important government interest of providing equal athletic opportunities for females,” and it, therefore, withstands the appropriate degree of constitutional scrutiny.

Responding to Pepper-Jackson's legal argument that the law at issue was “targeted at, and intended only to affect girls who are transgender,” Goodwin noted that the “record does make clear that, in passing this law, the legislature intended to prevent transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams.”

“But,” he added, “acting to prevent transgender girls, along with all other biological males, from playing on girls' teams is not unconstitutional if the classification is substantially related to an important government interest.”

As Fox News noted, Goodwin emphasized the biological distinctions between males and females that play a role in athletic contests, writing, “While some females may be able to outperform some males, it is generally accepted that, on average, males outperform females athletically because of inherent physical differences between the sexes.”

The judge added that even though Pepper-Jackson has taken puberty-blocking drugs, “there is much debate over whether and to what extend hormone therapies after puberty can reduce a transgender girl's athletic advantage over cisgender girls,” and he also noted that not every transgender individual pursues medical transitioning.

Ultimately, Goodwin declared, “The fact is, however, that a transgender girl is biologically male and, barring medical intervention, would undergo male puberty like other biological males. And biological males generally outperform females athletically.”

“The state is permitted to legislate sports rules on this basis because sex, and the physical characteristics that flow from it, are substantially related to athletic performance and fairness in sports,” the judge concluded.

As Politico noted, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who defended the law in court, lauded the opinion after its issuance.

“This is not only about simple biology, but fairness for women's sports, plain and simple,” Morrisey began.

“Opportunities for girls and women on the field are previous and we must safeguard that future. Protecting these opportunities is important, because when biological males compete in a women's event women and girls lose their opportunity to shine,” he added.

Written By:
Sarah May

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