West Virginia transgender athlete law challenged in court

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FILE – In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice celebrates his reelection at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. While the United States doubled its population over the past seven decades, West Virginia headed in the other direction. With West Virginia poised to lose another congressional seat due to its long, steady population decline, Republican lawmakers are convinced a massive tax cut is the key to reversing the trend.



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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday challenging West Virginia’s new ban on transgender athletes from competing in female sports in middle and high schools and colleges.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its West Virginia chapter filed the lawsuit 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.

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“I just want to run. I come from a family of runners,” the student, Becky Pepper-Jackson, said in a statement released by the ACLU. “I know how hurtful a law like this is to all kids like me who just want to play sports with their classmates, and I’m doing this for them. Trans kids deserve better.”

Bills over school sports participation bans also have been enacted this year in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Montana. 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.

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.

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