Supreme Court refuses to reinstate West Virginia ban on transgender student sports participation

The decision is a victory for LGBTQ advocates.

ByDevin Dwyer ABCNews logo
Thursday, April 6, 2023
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The U.S. Supreme Court has denied West Virginia's request to immediately reinstate a law that would ban transgender student-athletes from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

The decision is a win for a 12-year-old transgender girl and her parents who are challenging the law in a bid to allow her to continue running on her middle school cross-country and track teams.

It is also a victory for transgender rights advocates at a time when many states nationwide are enacting similar sports bans, even if the continued injunction is only temporary as legal challenges play out.

The court did not explain its decision, though two justices -- Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas -- issued a dissent.

Justices: Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
J. Scott Applewhite, File

"Among other things, enforcement of the law at issue should not be forbidden by the federal courts without any explanation," Alito writes.

The high court was not considering the ban on the merits but rather addressing the question of whether it should remain on hold while legal proceedings continue in lower courts.

West Virginia, defending the law in court documents, has claimed that "there is 'a substantial risk that boys would dominate the girls' programs and deny them an equal opportunity to compete in interscholastic events."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging West Virginia's trans sports ban on behalf of the girl, Becky Pepper Jackson, applauded the decision.

"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 ACLU said in a statement. "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."