The 4th Circuit Court Ruled West Virginia “Save Women’s Sports Act” Unconstitutional

The UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT ruled that West Virgina's “Save Women’s Sports Act” sole purpose is to prevent a 13-year-old transgender girl from playing on sports teams congruent with their gender expression and therefore unconstitutional.

The judge ruled the law as discriminatory ruling in favor of the transgender girl. However, it is not broad stroke ruling in favor of transgender woman in sports. The Fourth District Court of Appeals which covers MD, DC, VA, WV, NC, and SC previously ruled in favor of Trans student Gavin Grim and used that ruling as a benchmark regarding discrimination.

TOBY HEYTENS, Circuit Judge:

"A West Virginia law originally introduced as the “Save Women’s Sports Act” provides that “[a]thletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex,” while defining “male” as “an individual whose biological sex determined at birth is male.” W. Va. Code § 18-2-25d(b)(3) & (c)(2)."

"Because West Virginia law and practice have long provided for sex-differentiated sports teams, the Act’s sole purpose—and its sole effect—is to prevent transgender girls from playing on girls teams. The question before us is whether the Act may lawfully be applied to prevent a 13-year-old transgender girl who takes puberty blocking medication and has publicly identified as a girl since the third who takes puberty blocking medication and has publicly identified as a girl since the third grade from participating in her school’s cross country and track teams. We hold it cannot."

"The undisputed purpose—and the only effect—of that definition is to exclude transgender girls from the definition of “female” and thus to exclude them from participation on girls sports teams. That is a facial classification based on gender identity. And, under this Court’s binding precedent, such classifications trigger intermediate scrutiny. See Grimm v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd., 972 F.3d 586, 610–13 (4th Cir. 2020)."

"The defendants also insist the Act does not discriminate based on gender identity because it treats all “biological males”—that is, cisgender boys and transgender girls—the same. Appellees’ Br 21. But that is just another way of saying the Act treats transgender girls differently from cisgender girls, which is—literally—the definition of gender identity discrimination."

The ACLU of West Va issued a press release which reads in part:

“As the Fourth Circuit made clear in this ruling, West Virginia’s effort to ban one 13-year-old transgender girl from joining her teammates on the middle school cross country and track team was singling out Becky for disparate treatment because of her sex,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney for Youth Sruti Swaminathan said. “That’s discrimination pure and simple, and we applaud the court for arriving at this just decision.”

“We hope today’s ruling sends a message of hope to the trans youth of West Virginia,” said Aubrey Sparks, Legal Director of the ACLU of West Virginia, “and a message of warning to politicians who continue to dehumanize this vulnerable population.

In April 2021, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed HB 3293 into law, barring transgender student-athletes from participating on the school athletic teams most consistent with their gender identity. In May 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of Becky Pepper Jackson, a 12-year-old girl who would be kicked off her middle school’s track and field team if the law were enforced.

In a March 9, 2023 filing, Attorney General Patrick Morrissey asked the Supreme Court for an emergency motion allowing the state to enforce HB 3293 and kick 13 year old Becky off her middle school’s track and field team. The Supreme Court rejected this first attempt in April 2023.

Read the full 4th Circuit Court ruling Here

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