The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request from West Virginia that would have allowed the state to reinstate a law that prohibited transgender students from participating in sports teams that reflect their gender identity. As a result, an injunction is currently in place preventing the law from taking effect.
Because of Thursday’s decision, West Virginia’s Save Women’s Sports Act enacted in 2021 cannot be enforced against Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 12-year-old transgender girl. The decision is a victory for the girl and her parents, who have been fighting to continue her cross-country and track training.
As the legal challenges unfold, the continued injunction is also a victory for transgender rights advocates. Currently, many states nationwide are enacting similar sports bans.
While two justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, dissented from the ruling, the court didn’t explain its decision.
State attorney general Patrick Morrisey requested an emergency hearing in March from the court to request the justices’ opinions on a hot-button issue that has gained traction recently as Republican-led states have sought to limit trans youth’s rights, especially when it comes to school sports.
The law was signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice in 2021. The law was temporarily blocked three months after a district court passed it after a transgender student-athlete sued. A district court has, however, recently ruled in favor of the state. An appeal by the athlete caused the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the law again.
While the decision allows challenges to the law to proceed, the enforcement of the law remains on hold.
The ACLU of West Virginia, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union released a joint statement thanking the justices.
“We are grateful that the Supreme Court today acknowledged that there was no emergency and that Becky should be allowed to continue to participate with her teammates on her middle school track team, which she has been doing without incident for three going on four seasons, as our challenge to West Virginia’s onerous trans youth sports ban makes its way through the courts,” the statement read. “This was a baseless and cruel effort to keep Becky from where she belongs–playing alongside her peers as a teammate and as a friend.”
As part of an escalating wave of state-level restrictions on transgender people, West Virginia is one of 19 states that have banned transgender student-athletes in just three years.
Two other federal lawsuits that deal with the same restrictions are pending in Idaho and Tennessee.
The Advocate contacted the White House for reaction to the day’s development.