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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause prevents West Virginia and Arkansas from carrying out laws that exclude transgender girls from women's sports and ban gender-affirming care, respectively, the Justice Department argued Thursday in two statements of interest for separate lawsuits.

Why it matters: They are the Justice Department's first direct statements on the record number of bills targeting trans youth. The statements come after the White House repeatedly deferred to the DOJ on whether it will take action against the predominately Republican-backed legislation.

The agency filed statements of interest in two ACLU-backed lawsuits:

  • One was brought by the family of a West Virginia transgender girl, who say the state has barred their daughter from trying out for her school's cross-country team because she is trans.
    • "To be sure, there remain significant barriers to providing full equity in athletics for female students. But permitting participation by transgender girls, who make up 'approximately one half of one percent' of the United States' population, is not one of them," the Justice Department's statement of interest in the West Virginia lawsuit reads.
  • The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of four trans kids and their families in response to an Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care, which was unsuccessfully vetoed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R).
    • "Prohibiting medically necessary care in the manner proscribed [in the Arkansas' law] amounts fo intentional discrimination against transgender minors on the basis of sex," the DOJ said in its statement of interest in the Arkansas lawsuit.

Go deeper: Which states have banned trans youth in sports

Go deeper

Sep 18, 2021 - World

Taliban exclude Afghan teen girls from attending school

Afghan female students attend a class in Herat on Aug. 22, 2020. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images.

The Taliban reopened Afghan secondary schools on Saturday for only boys, effectively banning teen girls from receiving a formal education, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The move raises new fears that the Taliban will break public promises and impose severe restrictions on women's rights similar to those implemented in the 1990s.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.