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U.S. Judge Upholds W.V. Law on Trans Participation in Sports

January 9, 2023

A federal judge last week upheld the constitutionality of a West Virginia law that bars transgender athletes at public colleges and high schools from participating on teams that match their gender identity. The ruling by Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, which upended his previous ruling that stayed the 2021 law from taking effect, will allow it to proceed.

An 11-year-old transgender girl in West Virginia challenged the law with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and a statement of support from the Biden administration, arguing that it violated her 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Goodwin wrote that he had “no doubt that H.B. 3293 aimed to politicize participation in school athletics for transgender students,” citing evidence that “at least one legislator held or implicitly supported private bias against, or moral disapproval of, transgender individuals.” But he said he did not find evidence of broader “unconstitutional animus.”

He concluded that the state was within its rights to define “girl” and “woman” as based on reproductive biology at birth, because that definition “is substantially related to the important government interest of providing equal athletic opportunities for females.”

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