West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced that the state will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to lift an injunction against a law that bars transgender athletes from female sports teams. The ban, which was passed in 2021, prohibits male public high school or post-secondary students from competing on female athletic teams based on their biological sex at birth.
The law has been the subject of legal challenges since its passage. A lawsuit brought by 12-year-old transgender girl Becky Pepper-Jackson and her mother, Heather, contends that the law violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and Title IX, which bars sex-based discrimination in education.
West Virginia’s request to the Supreme Court, due to be filed later on Thursday, aims to protect the “integrity of women’s sports” in the state, according to Morrisey. However, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal group representing Pepper-Jackson, argue that the law is discriminatory and violates the rights of transgender athletes.
The West Virginia case is part of a wave of laws passed by Republican lawmakers across the country that target LGBT rights, including laws limiting transgender participation in sports and access to gender-affirming medical care. Last month, Tennessee passed legislation restricting drag performances in public or in front of children.
The Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling protecting gay and transgender employees under a federal law barring workplace discrimination has intensified the culture wars over transgender rights. The court is also considering another important case touching on LGBT rights during its current term, with a ruling due by the end of June.
In the West Virginia case, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin initially blocked the law, but in January he reversed course, finding the state measure to be lawful. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently blocked the law while the case proceeds.
The case highlights the ongoing debate around transgender rights in sports and raises the question of how the Supreme Court will rule on the issue.