A federal judge
in West Virginia
temporarily barred the state from barring a transgender girl from participating in school sports
on Wednesday, effectively declaring the state's discriminatory law passed earlier this year unenforceable.
was filed shortly after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice
(R) signed the anti-trans
sports bill into law in April
, which bars transgender girls from competing on sports teams at public schools
. U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin issued a preliminary injunction, saying Becky Pepper-Jackson, 11, should be allowed to participate on her
school's girls cross country team while the case is pending.
The judge for the Southern District of West Virginia disagreed, saying the law likely violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution as well as the government's Title IX
“A fear of the unknown and discomfort with the unfamiliar have motivated many of the most heinous harms committed by our country’s governments on their own citizens,” Goodwin wrote in his decision. “Out of fear of those less like them, the powerful have made laws that restricted who could attend what schools, who could work
, who could marry whom, and even how people
could practice their religion
“I have been provided with scant evidence that this law addresses any problem, let alone a significant problem,” he added.
Becky is an incredible young lady who deserves the same opportunities as every other girl her age, and she has a lot of people on her side in this battle
, including @LambdaLegal, @aclu, and @cooleyLLP, as well as the support of so many West Virginians! — ACLU of WV (@ACLU_WV) July 21, 2021
His decision on Wednesday only applies to Pepper-Jackson's case, but the judge left the door open to protecting other student athletes
as the case progresses. The girl's legal team had requested a temporary injunction because cross country training at her school begins this month, according to Politico
Pepper-Jackson expressed excitement about the ruling on Wednesday, which was lauded by human rights
groups who pointed out that similar Republican-led bills had been stalled in Idaho
“I am thrilled to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in my family
’s running footsteps,” she said in a statement
. “It hurts that the State of West Virginia would try to prevent me from pursuing my dreams; I just want to play.”
BREAKING: Becky Pepper-Jackson has won a preliminary injunction, which means that a discriminatory West Virginia anti-trans bill will not prevent Becky from participating in sports when she returns to school in the fall. #LetKidsPlay https://t.co/SwCqmLcfC7
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) July 21, 2021
across the country have introduced a slew of bills aimed at limiting the rights of transgender youth
, with at least 19 of them already passing. The bills primarily focus on two goals: prohibiting transgender children
from participating on school sports teams and limiting medically necessary health care
The bills are based largely on conservative dog
whistles about transgender people, despite a slew of studies showing that access to medical care is a critical need for trans youth
. Leading pediatrics organizations have blasted the GOP
efforts as harmful to children, claiming that the bills are based largely on misinformation
and negative tropes.
The judge stated in his decision on Wednesday that such efforts appeared to be an infringement on the rights of all Americans, citing poet Langston Hughes.
“It is clearly in the public interest to uphold [the plaintiff’s] constitutional right not to be treated differently than her similarly situated peers because any harm to [her] personal rights is a harm to the share of American rights that we all collectively hold,” Goodwin wrote.