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West Virginia can keep transgender sports ban, judge says

Judge: West Virginia Medicaid must cover transgender care
Judge: West Virginia Medicaid must cover transgender care 00:19

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia's ban on transgender athletes competing in female school sports is constitutional and can remain in place, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its West Virginia chapter filed the lawsuit in 2021 on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who hoped to compete in middle school cross-country in Harrison County. The lawsuit named the state and Harrison County boards of education and their superintendents as defendants.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey applauded Thursday's decision by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin.

"This is not only about simple biology, but fairness for women's sports, plain and simple," the attorney general said. "Opportunities for girls and women on the field are precious and we must safeguard that future."

The ACLU of West Virginia said Thursday that it is reviewing the decision with co-counsel to determine next steps. The ban applies to middle and high schools, as well as colleges.

Transgender athletes' ability to compete in sports is the subject of a continuing national debate. More than a dozen states have passed laws banning or restricting transgender participation in sports based on the premise it gives them an unfair competitive advantage — despite the general lack of a problem to address.

A 2017 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school used state-level, population-based surveys to estimate that West Virginia had the highest percentage (1.04%) of residents ages 13 to 17 among all states who identified as transgender. That equated to about 1,150 teens.

The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, which oversees scholastic sports, said in 2021, when the lawsuit was filed, that it had not received any complaints about transgender athletes on girls teams.

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