GOP officials seek Supreme Court challenge, nationwide law targeting trans athletes

GOP officials are taking even more steps targeting trans women and girls in sports through measures that could soon be taken up by the House and Supreme Court. The moves follow dozens of proposed anti-trans legislation that has been introduced by Republicans since the start of this year.

On Thursday, West Virginia Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey petitioned the Supreme Court to allow the state to implement its Save Women’s Sports Act, a 2021 bill that would force transgender women to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender assigned at birth.

Though the law was initially blocked by U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, he determined that the legislation could go into effect in January after ruling that it was not unconstitutional.

However, the bill was blocked again by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after an 11-year-old transgender girl named Becky Pepper-Jackson appealed the decision.

Pepper-Jackson and her family first sued the state after the legislation was signed into law because she wanted to try out for her middle school’s cross country team. She’s represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal and Cooley LLP, a law firm specializing in racial and social justice issues.

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” Loree Stark, ACLU’s West Virginia Legal Director, said at the time.

“We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who feel attacked and wrong by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

Still, if the court approves Morrisey’s emergency application, the state can implement the law, which would also allow any student “who is deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers any direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of this chapter” to “have a private cause of action… against the school of institution of higher education.”

Additionally, a “student who is subject to retaliation or other adverse action by a school, institution of higher education or athletic association” after “reporting a violation of this chapter…shall have a private cause of action for injunctive relief,” the legislation states.

Suits can be filed up to two years after the incident occurred.

“This simple law demands that girls and women get their fair share of opportunities in sports,” Morrisey said after filing the emergency action. “That’s why we’re taking this case to the Supreme Court.”

Yet there is no scientific evidence as to why transgender athletes should be excluded from playing on their desired sports teams.

It’s not clear if the court will take up the issue and, if so, when, considering it does not act under specific time constraints.

Legislation tackling the rights of transgender people has become a key focus for the GOP. At least 39 bills have been introduced this year that aim to challenge healthcare access for transgender people or the right to accurate identity documents, according to the ACLU.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee passed legislation similar to the West Virginia bill, which would ban transgender girls from competing on sports teams that fit their gender identities.

The bill was introduced by Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube and has been dubbed the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023.” The legislation aims to amend Title IX to recognize sex “solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

“What this bill really does is stigmatize vulnerable children,” said U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington. “If enacted, trans kids would effectively be banned from joining a team and forced to give up their favorite sport.”

Anti-trans policies and rhetoric continue to permeate every part of GOP politics, despite the fact that 64 percent of Americans favor policies that protect transgender people from discrimination, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.

At a CNN town hall Thursday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took a question from a transgender teen asking about the politician’s “model policy” for trans youth, which would require that students use restrooms and play on sports teams that correspond with their gender assigned at birth.

“Look at me,” the teen told the Republican governor. “I am a transgender man. Do you really think that the girls in my high school would feel comfortable sharing a restroom with me?”

Youngkin responded: “I think that there are lots of students involved in this decision and what’s most important is that we try very hard to accommodate students,” he said, expanding on the policies.

“I don’t think that biological boys should be playing sports with biological girls,” he continued. “That’s non-controversial.”

The Reckon Report.
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