On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by West Virginia to prevent a transgender student from participating in girls’ sports. In doing so, a law enacted in 2021 called the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ cannot be enforced against a 12-year-old transgender girl, Becky Pepper-Jackson, while litigation continues in the case.
In barring transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports at the middle school, high school and college levels, the law says gender is “based solely on the individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” As such, it says, a female is a person “whose biological sex determined at birth as female.” The law was challenged by Pepper-Jackson, then 11 years old, who wanted to try out for the cross country and track teams in her middle school in Harrison County. Pepper-Jackson’s lawyers said in a joint statement: “We are grateful that the Supreme Court today acknowledged that there was no emergency and that Becky should be allowed to continue to participate with her teammates on her middle school track team,” and called the state’s attempt to enforce the law “a baseless and cruel effort.” During litigation, Pepper-Jackson has participated on her school’s cross country and track teams, where she has been welcomed by teammates and coaches, her lawyers said. She is undergoing puberty-delaying treatment and hormone therapy.
A federal judge initially ruled in Pepper-Jackson’s favor but concluded in January that the law was most likely legal and allowed it to be enforced against her. Pepper-Jackson appealed, and last month the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia again blocked the state from applying it. West Virginia’s lawyers said in court papers that if the law is not applied to Pepper-Jackson, “sex-separated sports as they are traditionally understood will be functionally illegal in West Virginia public schools and universities.”
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