The attorney general of West Virginia is going to bat for female athletes.
On Thursday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, filed an application with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the nine-justice panel to allow his state’s ban on transgender athletes to go into effect.
Morrisey argued it is “fundamentally unfair to allow biological males to compete on women’s sports teams,” noting during a press conference he is filing the request alongside the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Lainey Armistead, a former West Virginia State University soccer player.
Earlier this year, Armistead said, “I believe that protecting fairness in women’s sports is a women’s rights issue. This isn’t just about fair play for me; it’s about protecting fairness and safety for female athletes across West Virginia.”
The legal battle centers on the state’s Save Women’s Sports Act, first enacted in 2021. The law stipulates athletes’ participation on particular teams in middle school, high school, and college ought to be “based solely on the individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
It further defines a female as one “whose biological sex determined at birth as female.”
“We are resolute in protecting opportunities for women and girls in sports, because when biological males win in a women’s event — as has happened time and again — female athletes lose their opportunity to shine,” Morrisey said in a statement, NBC News reported.
What’s the history?
The law was first challenged in 2021 by then-11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, a male who identifies as female. Pepper-Jackson wanted to try out to compete on the girls’ cross-country and track teams in middle school.
Pepper-Jackson’s attorneys at the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBT group Lambda Legal have argued the Republican-backed law violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, requiring the law to be equally applied to all people, as well as Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bars discrimination in education.
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Initially, a federal judge blocked the law, but then, in January, dissolved the temporary injunction against the bill, allowing it to take effect. That, though, was short-lived, as the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, reinstated the injunction against the West Virginia law last month.
In the wake of the judicial vacillation, Morrisey is seeking a final ruling from the highest court in the land.
Rachel Csutoros, legal counsel at the ADF, said, “Lainey got involved in this case to make sure no woman would suffer and be forced to compete against a male in her sport. It’s unfair and it’s unsafe. No male should be allowed to take athletic opportunities away from women. That’s why we’re giving the Supreme Court a chance to protect fairness in women’s sports from today’s threats.”
Morrisey, for his part, said he anticipates other states as well as a cohort of female athletes to back his application with the Supreme Court, according to The Washington Times.
In 2021, the high court declined a similar case about whether transgender students should be permitted to use bathrooms that correlate with their chosen gender identities. In 2020, it should be noted, the justices ruled favorably for those who identify as transgender, deciding that a federal law barring sex discrimination in employment applies to gay and transgender individuals.
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