A federal judge in West Virginia has upheld a state law that prohibits male athletes who identify as female from participating in female school sports.
In a ruling on January 5, Judge Joseph R. Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia said that the "Save Women’s Sports Bill," or HB 3293, is "constitutionally permissible."
The bill defines "girl" and "women" as biologically female for the purpose of secondary school sports and Judge Goodwin found that this was "substantially related to its important interest in providing equal athletic opportunities for females,” the Post Millennial reported.
The law was first introduced in March 2021 and was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented trans-identified male middle school student Becky Pepper-Jackson, who was barred from the girls' cross-country team.
Fox News reported that the ACLU argued that the bill was a violation of Pepper-Jackson’s rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and Title IX, the federal state statute that prohibits sex-based discrimination.
At the time, Judge Goodwin ruled in favor of the ACLU and blocked the law at the preliminary stage, ruling that Pepper-Jackson was being excluded from school sports on the basis of sex, making it a Title IX violation.
The Post Millennial reported:
At the time, Goodwin ruled in favor of the ACLU and blocked the law at the preliminary stage, ruling that Pepper-Jackson was being excluded from school sports on the basis of sex making it a Title IX violation.
While Goodwin acknowledged in his new decision that the law was seeking to "prevent transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams," he highlighted the biological differences between males and females that give males a significant sporting advantage.
Goodwin also noted that while Pepper-Jackson had taken puberty blockers, not all transgender athletes do. Some only socially transition, while others take blockers and hormones at a later stage in puberty.
He stated that "there is much debate over whether and to what extent hormone therapies after puberty can reduce a transgender girl's athletic advantage over cisgender girls."
The decision was supported by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey.
"This is not only about simple biology, but fairness for women’s sports, plain and simple," Morrissey said in a statement.
"Opportunities for girls and women on the field are precious and we must safeguard that future. Protecting these opportunities is important, because when biological males compete in a women’s event, women and girls lose their opportunity to shine," he said.