06/17 14:18 CDT Feds: West Virginia transgender athlete ban violates law
Feds: West Virginia transgender athlete ban violates law
By JOHN RABY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) --- The U.S. Department of Justice has slammed a new
West Virginia law that bans transgender athletes from competing in female
sports, asserting in a court filing Thursday that the ban violates federal law.
The department filed what is known as a statement of interest in a lawsuit by
the American Civil Liberties Union, its West Virginia chapter and LGBTQ
interest group Lambda Legal challenging the ban. The DOJ said the law violates
Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education
program or activity receiving federal funds, as well as the equal protection
clause of the 14th Amendment.
"The United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students,
including students who are transgender, can participate in an educational
environment free of unlawful discrimination and that the proper legal standards
are applied to claims under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause," the
"A state law that limits or denies a particular class of people's ability to
participate in public, federally funded educational programs and activities
solely because their gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth
violates both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause," the filing said. The
state law "does exactly this," the department said.
The lawsuit was filed last month in U.S. District Court for the southern
district of West Virginia on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who had
hoped to compete in cross country in middle school in Harrison County. The
lawsuit names the state and Harrison County boards of education and their
superintendents as defendants.
Several other states also have enacted bills this year over school sports
participation bans. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem implemented the move by
executive order. Other states, including Kansas and North Dakota, passed bans
only to have them vetoed by the governor.
In February, the Biden administration withdrew government support for a federal
lawsuit in Connecticut that seeks to ban transgender athletes from
participating in girls high school sports. A federal judge dismissed that
lawsuit in April.
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 earlier this year that it had not received any
complaints about transgender athletes on girls teams.
Several Democrats said the bill was discriminatory, but supporters have argued
that transgender athletes would have physical advantages in female sports. Some
Republicans said the bill was about protecting athletic opportunities for
athletes who are identified as girls at birth.
"Neither the facts nor the law supports that assertion. To be sure, there
remain significant barriers to providing full equity in athletics for female
students," the Justice Department said in its filing. But permitting
participation by transgender girls, who make up less than 1% of the U.S.
population, "is not one of them."
The Justice Department also said the new law could lead to misunderstandings.
"Though the law purports to bar only transgender girls from joining the girls'
team, the practical effect is that every girl in West Virginia may be subject
to having her eligibility for a single-sex team challenged merely because some
other student claims the girl in question is not a ?real' girl," the filing
Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill despite warnings from some
lawmakers that the NCAA could retaliate and decide not to hold college
tournaments in the state. Justice had said that while it concerned him that the
state could miss out on a sporting event, he believed the benefits of the law
"way outweigh the bad part of it."
In March, hundreds of college athletes signed a letter to the NCAA Board of
Governors asking the organization to refuse to schedule championships in states
that have banned transgender athlete participation in sports.
The NCAA in 2016 moved championships out of North Carolina in response to a
bill legislating transgender people's use of public restrooms.