Apr 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Federal appeals court blocks West Virginia transgender sports ban

Illustration of a gavel with a trans flag on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a West Virginia law banning transgender girls from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The big picture: The 2-1 ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the ban also violates Title IX, the landmark 1972 legislation that bars sex-based discrimination in education.

  • Dozens of GOP-led state legislatures across the U.S. have passed laws barring trans girls from participating in girls' sports teams.

Zoom in: The appeals court found that the West Virginia law can't be applied to a 13-year-old girl who has not undergone puberty, having been taking puberty-blocking medication, and who has identified publicly as girl since third grade.

  • Offering the eight grader "a 'choice' between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is no real choice at all," Fourth Circuit Judge Toby Heytens wrote in the ruling.
  • He continued that the defendants can't expect the track athlete "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."

Between the lines: The Supreme Court last year rejected West Virginia's bid to enforce a transgender athlete ban against a 12-year-old girl.

Zoom out: The U.S. Department of Education last year unveiled a proposal to change Title IX rules guiding the rights of transgender athletes on school sports teams. The Biden administration is preparing to finalize the rules in coming weeks, per the Washington Post.

  • The rule would bar public schools and colleges that receive federal funding from outright banning transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, while allowing some exclusions in specific high school and college sports.
  • The administration has maintained that blanket bans like West Virginia's violate Title IX and the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

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