Becky Pepper-Jackson: Supreme Court rules West Virginia trans girl can continue playing sports amid state ban challenge

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a 12-year-old transgender girl in West Virginia can continue to participate in school sports that match her gender, marking the first time the nation’s high court has weighed in on the campaign. national legislation to prevent young trans people from joining school sports.

On April 6, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to reject the state’s attempt to enforce its ban and bar Becky Pepper-Jackson from playing on her college track team — at least for the moment.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrissey had asked the court for an emergency motion that would allow the state to enforce its ban; the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit blocked that effort, prompting an appeal to the nine-member Supreme Court panel.

Two of the court’s conservative justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, said they would have sided with West Virginia.

State law appears to deny trans, non-binary, and intersex people entirely, saying gender is “based solely on the reproductive biology and genetics of the individual at birth.” It determines that a female is a person “whose biological sex was determined at birth to be female”.

Becky’s mother, Heather Jackson, said in court documents that Becky “is receiving puberty-delaying therapy and estrogen hormone therapy, so has not (and will not) experience endogenous puberty.”

“I am not a boy,” Becky wrote in a court statement last year. “I don’t want to run with the boys when there’s a girls’ team and I shouldn’t have to run with the boys when there’s a girls’ team. Running with girls means a lot to me because I’m a girl, and I should be treated like a girl, like all my friends who are girls.

A 2021 photo provided by the American Civil Liberties Union shows Becky Pepper-Jackson of West Virginia, among more than a dozen states seeking to ban trans women and girls from school sports that match their gender.

(ACLU/AFP via Getty Images)

A legal team, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, said the state law violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in education.

Becky’s coaches and teammates have also “welcomed her participation” and Becky considers them a “second family”, according to court briefings.

“Although she regularly finishes near the back of the pack, she loves to play, have fun with her friends and do her best,” according to a filing from the family’s legal team.

State attorneys argued that if the law is not allowed to be enforced, “sex-segregated sports as traditionally understood will be functionally illegal in public schools and universities in West Virginia.” .

At least 20 states now ban trans athletes from joining sports that match their gender, after Kansas lawmakers voted to overturn the governor’s veto of legislation banning trans women and girls from participating in school sports, joining a wave of discriminatory legislation across the US targeting LGBT+ Americans.

Anti-trans legislation and rhetoric have consumed state legislatures, right-wing media, this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, and, increasingly, members of Congress, where lawmakers in Washington DC is considering national bills that mirror proposals dominating state capitals.

A bill in the House of Representatives would impose nationwide restrictions on trans athletes of all ages by changing federal civil rights laws.

States are also increasingly advancing legislation and policies aimed at restricting or eliminating access to medically necessary and potentially life-saving medical care and other support systems for trans youth.

At least 10 states have enacted laws or policies banning gender-affirming care for trans youth, and more than a dozen more are considering similar measures. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than half of all trans youth in the United States between the ages of 13 and 17 are at risk of losing access to age-appropriate, medically necessary health care.

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