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Federal appeals court overturns West Virginia’s transgender sports ban


West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican who argued the case on behalf of the state, said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” in the decision and vowed to fight to keep the law in place.

“We must keep working to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field,” he said. “We know the law is correct and will use every available tool to defend it.”

Tuesday’s ruling comes as the debate over whether transgender athletes should compete in sports that align with their gender identities continues to be a lightning-rod issue within the nation’s culture wars. 

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, signed the state’s transgender sports bill into law in 2021, making West Virginia one of the first states to implement restrictions on trans athletes. Now, it is one of 24 states to have passed such legislation, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that tracks policies affecting the LGBTQ community. Temporary injunctions are blocking some of the laws, including those in Arizona, Idaho and Utah, according to MAP. 

Proponents of the measures have argued that trans girls and women have biological advantages over cisgender girls and women, making their inclusion in girls’ and women’s sports unfair and potentially dangerous. 

In his dissent in Tuesday’s ruling, Judge G. Steven Agee appeared to agree.

“By continuing to allow B.P.J.—and transgender girls like B.P.J.— to participate on girls’ teams, the number of displaced biological girls will expand exponentially,” Agee wrote. “Further, as the spots on teams become more limited, B.P.J. will prevent other biological girls from participating on the teams altogether, thereby denying them any athletic opportunity.”

Opponents have framed the laws as a discriminatory restriction placed on trans people to deter them from playing sports. 

Becky Pepper-Jackson runs in Bridgeport, W.Va., in 2021.
Becky Pepper-Jackson runs in Bridgeport, W.Va., in 2021.ACLU via AFP – Getty Images

Pepper-Jackson has been allowed to participate on her school’s girls’ cross-country team since the appeals court temporarily halted the law from taking place in February 2023. 

“I want to keep going because this is something I love to do, and I’m not just going to give it up,” Pepper-Jackson previously told NBC News. “This is something I truly love, and I’m not going to give up for anything.”


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