West Virginia Judge Temporarily Blocks Law Banning Trans Girls From Competing On Sports Teams

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“A fear of the unknown and discomfort with the unfamiliar have motivated many of the most malignant harms committed by our country’s governments on their own citizens,” wrote Goodwin in the ruling.

A district judge in West Virginia has temporarily blocked a law that would ban trans women and girls from competing on scholastic athletic teams in accordance with their gender identity. 

The law, House Bill 3293, passed in the state legislature earlier this year and was signed into law by the state’s governor Jim Justice. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, and the law firm Cooley LLP filed a lawsuit in May on behalf of an 11-year-old trans girl, Becky Pepper-Johnson, alleging that the law was in violation of anti-discriminatory measures established under Title IX. 

In his ruling, Judge Joseph Goodwin granted Pepper-Johnson a preliminary injunction and will temporarily halt the bill from going into effect while the case is pending. He has also ruled that Pepper-Johnson should be allowed to compete on her school’s cross country team while the case is pending.

“A fear of the unknown and discomfort with the unfamiliar have motivated many of the most malignant harms committed by our country’s governments on their own citizens,” wrote Goodwin in the ruling. “Out of fear of those less like them, the powerful have made laws that restricted who could attend what schools, who could work certain jobs, who could marry whom, and even how people can practice their religion.”

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Pepper-Johnson — who comes from a family of runners — in a statement. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.” 

In remarks to MSNBC earlier this year, Governor Justice said that he signed the bill into law “because I believe from the standpoint of a coach, I believe that girls worked so hard to obtain Title IX. And I do not have any idea now why we are trying to disadvantage them in participating in the sport that they put so much into. I don’t know why we’re doing that.”

Another anti-trans bill in Arkansas has also been temporarily halted by a federal district judge. On Wednesday, Judge James M. Moody Jr. granted the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction against a law banning gender-affirming health care for trans minors. The law had been scheduled to go into effect next week.


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