News (USA)

Supreme Court refuses to let state force trans girl out of cross country team pending case review

Becky Pepper Jackson
Becky Pepper-Jackson Photo: ACLU of WV

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to consider the state of West Virginia’s appeal in the case of a transgender girl who wants to participate in school sports, effectively allowing her to run on her school’s girls’ cross country team as her case works its way through appeals.

West Virginia banned transgender girls and women from participating in school sports in 2021, and Becky Pepper-Jackson, who is now 12, and her family filed a lawsuit. She wanted to run on her middle school’s cross-country team and the only thing stopping her was H.B. 3293.

The family won an initial temporary injunction allowing her to run with her classmates and even got help from the Biden administration, which filed a brief supporting her right to an equal education, which includes sports education. But the judge ultimately ruled against her in January 2023.

“I recognize that being transgender is natural and is not a choice,” Judge Joseph R. Goodwin wrote in his decision. “But one’s sex is also natural, and it dictates physical characteristics that are relevant to athletics.”

Her family appealed, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted her another temporary injunction, allowing her to participate in cross country. The state asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the injunction, but the Court refused.

Seven Supreme Court justices voted against intervening in the case, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – the most anti-LGBTQ+ justices on the Supreme Court – dissenting.

Twenty states have passed laws banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports as their gender. No federal circuit court has ruled on the legality of such bans yet, which opponents argue violate both the constitutional rights of transgender students as well as Title IX’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex, since such bans distinguish one group of girls from girls in general on the basis of their sex assigned at birth and target them for worse treatment.

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