The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to let West Virginia enforce a state law banning transgender athletes from female sports teams at public schools, one of many Republican-backed measures across the country targeting LGBTQ rights.
The justices denied West Virginia’s request to lift an injunction against the law that a lower court had imposed while litigation continues over its legality in a challenge brought by a 12-year-old transgender girl, Becky Pepper-Jackson. Two conservative justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, publicly dissented from the decision.
The law, passed in 2021, designates sports teams at public schools including universities according to “biological sex” and bars male students from female athletic teams “based solely on the individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
In the lawsuit, Pepper-Jackson and her mother Heather argued that the law discriminates based on sex and transgender status in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law as well as the Title IX civil rights law that bars sex-based discrimination in education.
West Virginia said in a court filing that it can lawfully assign athletic teams by sex rather than gender identity “where biological differences between males and females are the very reason those separate teams exist.”
Pepper-Jackson, who attends a middle school in the West Virginia city of Bridgeport, sued after being prohibited from trying out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams.