Appeals court overturns West Virginia ban on transgender athletes


April 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday prevented a West Virginia ban on transgender students from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity because it violates federal law.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit against the ban in 2021 on behalf of eighth-grade trans teen Becky Pepper-Jackson.

In overturning the lower court ruling, appeals Judge Toby Heytens said the rule violated Title IX.

"[West Virginia's transgender sports ban's] sole purpose -- and its sole effect -- is to prevent transgender girls from playing girls teams," Heytens wrote in his opinion, according to The Hill. "Offering BPJ a 'choice' between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is no real choice at all.

"The defendants cannot expect that BPJ 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."

ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block called the ruling "a tremendous victory" for transgender youth across the country who want to play sports.

"It also continues a string of federal court rulings 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," Block said in a statement.

The subject of transgender athletes -- particularly transgender girls and women competing on girls and women's teams -- continues to roil across the country and is being led by conservatives who want to block their participation.

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender youth from participating in student sport activities that align with their chosen gender identity.

In March, 16 women sued the NCAA over its transgender participation policies, charging that it threatened their rights under Title IX.