West Virginia trans sports ban discriminates against teen, appeals court says

West Virginia transgender athlete, Becky Pepper-Jackson.

West Virginia’s transgender athletes ban discriminates against a 13-year-old trans girl, a US court has ruled.

A court ruling handed down by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday (16 April) described the proposed law banning trans women from women’s sports as the “definition of gender identity discrimination.”

The West Virginia law, dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” was passed in 2021 and barred transgender girls from competing in girls’ teams or sporting events.

It was challenged by 13-year-old transgender school student, Becky Pepper-Jackson, who was 11 at the time, after she was blocked from participating in her school’s cross-country and track teams.

The law was successfully blocked in February 2023 and further attempts to overturn the decision have been rejected.

The appeals court handed down yet another ruling blocking the bill from taking effect, saying that the bill violates constitutional rights and the US’ anti-discrimination act, Title IX.

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a West Virginia transgender sports ban has been deemed discriminatory. (Getty)

“The Act treats transgender girls differently from cisgender girls,” the decision reads. “Which is – literally – the definition of gender identity discrimination.”

“The defendants cannot expect that [Becky Pepper-Jackson] will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy.”

The ruling takes into account that the lawmakers defending the bill “do not dispute” that forcing Pepper-Jackson to detransition for the purposes of competition would “contradict treatment protocols for gender dysphoria.”

“It would also expose [Becky Pepper-Jackson] to the same risk of unfair competition and, in some sports, physical danger – from which the defendants claim to be shielding cisgender girls.”

Joshua Block, the plaintiff’s lawyer and solicitor for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the ruling a “tremendous victory” for Pepper-Jackson, trans West Virginians, and for “the freedom of all youth to play as who they are.”

Who is 13-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson?

The plaintiff of the legal challenge, Becky Pepper-Jackson, sued West Virginia state authorities alongside her mother not long after the sports ban took effect.

The eighth grader from Bridgeport, West Virginia, has competed in track and field competitions for over three seasons, according to court filings.

A blurb on the ACLU news and commentary website says: “When Becky isn’t colouring her her pink or playing video games with her friends, she’s probably running.

“Everyone in Becky’s family – her two older brothers and bother her parents – are avid runners.”

After the law was signed into effect by Republican West Virginia governor, Jim Justice, Pepper-Jackson sought a legal challenge for the lower courts, which initially ruled against her.

The ruling was then considered for appeal by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which eventually took the legal challenge to the Supreme Court, which ruled against lifting an injunction against the law.

Pepper-Jackson reportedly knew she was a girl at a young age, before she or her family knew what being transgender event meant.

“Becky never had to ‘come out’ to her family,” the ACLU writes. “As early as age four, long before she or her parents for that matter, understood what the word ‘transgender’ meant.”