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Federal Judge Upholds State Law Preventing Boys From Competing In Girls’ Sports

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A federal judge ruled Thursday in favor of a West Virginia law that requires athletes to compete in sports on the basis of biological sex rather than gender identity.

Southern District of West Virginia Judge Joseph Goodwin ruled that the state’s H.B. 3293, commonly known as the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” is “constitutionally permissible” because its definitions of girl and woman on the basis of biological sex are “substantially related to the important government interest of providing equal athletic opportunities for females.” The ruling comes after a lawsuit, filed on behalf of 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender girl, argued that H.B. 3293 violated Pepper-Jackson’s rights under Title IX a federal law that prohibits discrimination of the basis of sex, and kept the student from joining the girl’s cross country team.

“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,” Goodwin wrote. “This is not an overbroad generalization, but rather a general principle that realistically reflects the average physical differences between the sexes. Given B.P.J.’s concession that circulating testosterone in males creates a biological difference in athletic performance, I do not see how I could find that the state’s classification based on biological sex is not substantially related to its interest in providing equal athletic opportunities for females.”

Pepper-Jackson’s lawsuit alleged that the law was “targeted at, and intended only to affect, girls who are transgender.” Goodwin noted that there are “inherent physical differences” between males and females, and while Pepper-Jackson was able to take puberty blocking medication to mute those “inherent physical differences,” some transgender females take the medication after puberty is completed which still gives them an advantage, the ruling stated.

Lainey Armistead, a former West Virginia State University soccer player, intervened in the lawsuit in 2021 to support the “Save Women’s Sports Act” in an effort to protect “fairness and safety,” according to a press release by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who filed the motion on Armistead’s behalf.

“Today’s decision is a win for reality,” Christiana Kiefer, senior counsel for ADF, said in a press release. “The truth matters, and it is crucial that our laws and policies recognize that the physical differences between men and women matter, especially in a context like sports. Female athletes deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition, safety on the field, and women’s athletic opportunities.”

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