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Trans sports ban overturned in West Virginia

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(NEW YORK) — A federal appeals court has voted to overturn West Virginia’s law that bans transgender athletes from playing on teams consistent with their gender identity.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling argues that the law violates Title IX, which protects against sex-based discrimination in schools.

The judges argued that the restrictions cannot be lawfully applied to prevent a 13-year-old girl taking puberty-blockers and who has openly identified as a girl for years from participating in sports.

“Offering B.P.J. a ‘choice’ between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is no real choice at all,” the opinion stated.

It continued, “The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy.”

The defendants in the case — including the West Virginia State Board Of Education and the State Of West Virginia — argued that sports are separated based on the physiological differences of people assigned male or female at birth.

They added that it would not be “strange” for the trans teen to play on a boys team: “Many women and girls throughout West Virginia and the country have long sought to compete on boys’ teams because they desire a higher level of competition,” one court filing from the state read.

It continued: “A girl competing on the boys’ team need not be strange or uncomfortable because it is far from a unique occurrence.”

LGBTQ rights and civil rights advocates applauded the decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This is a tremendous victory for our client, transgender West Virginians, and the freedom of all youth to play as who they are,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “It also continues a string of federal courts ruling against bans on the participation of transgender athletes and in favor of their equal participation as the gender they know themselves to be. This case is fundamentally about the equality of transgender youth in our schools and our communities and we’re thankful the Fourth Circuit agreed.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed the trans sport ban into law in 2021. It is one of 25 states that restrict transgender participation in sports, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

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