Civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging West Virginia’s new anti-trans sports law, arguing that the measure banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports unconstitutionally “discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status.”
The lawsuit challenges a measure that prohibits transgender girls and women in the state from competing on sports teams at “any public secondary school or state institution of higher education.” West Virginia GOP Gov. Jim Justice signed the legislation into law last month, approving a measure that joins an unprecedented number of state bills advanced by a host of Republican-controlled legislatures around the country this year seeking to impose restrictions on the lives of transgender Americans.
The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, LGBTQ advocacy group Lambda Legal and Cooley LLP brought the lawsuit on behalf of 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson in the Southern District of West Virginia.
Pepper-Jackson, who will start middle school in the fall and was on the cheerleading team in elementary school, “wants to continue playing sports in middle school by participating on the girls’ cross country and track teams,” according to the lawsuit.
In light of the law, without court intervention, Pepper-Jackson will be denied the opportunity to continue playing sports in middle school “simply because she is transgender,” the lawsuit states.
Many legislators nationwide have argued that allowing transgender athletes to compete raises issues over fairness in athletics.
Pepper-Jackson is referred to in the lawsuit as B.P.J., but is named and quoted in an ACLU press release.
“I just want to run, I come from a family of runners,” said Pepper-Jackson. “I know how hurtful a law like this is to all kids like me who just want to play sports with their classmates, and I’m doing this for them. Trans kids deserve better.”
Wednesday’s lawsuit comes a day after the ACLU sued Arkansas in an effort to block enforcement of a recently passed law that prohibits physicians in the state from providing gender-affirming treatment for trans youth, arguing it violates the Constitution and will have “devastating consequences” for members of the community.
The West Virginia lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to allow Pepper-Jackson “to experience the benefits of athletic participation consistent with her gender identity and without being singled out from other girls for different treatment simply because she is transgender.”
“We look forward to showing in court that this law should be enjoined as unlawful and that Becky should have the same opportunity to play sports as any other child,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.