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Judge Upholds West Virginia Law Prohibiting Transgender Athletes from Participating in Girls’ Sports

Judge Upholds West Virginia Law Prohibiting Transgender Athletes from Participating in Girls' Sports thumbnail

A federal judge on Thursday upheld a West Virginia law prohibiting biological boys from playing on girls’ teams in a decision that one legal group called a “win for reality.”

In a 23-page decision, Judge Joseph R. Goodwin wrote that transgender-identifying students deserve respect but that the state of West Virginia had a legitimate government interest in adopting the law, which defines “female” according to an individual’s biological sex. The law prohibits biological males from participating in female sports.

An 11-year-old student who was born male but identifies as female had sued the state seeking to overturn the law.

“While some females may be able to outperform some males, it is generally accepted that, on average, males outperform females athletically because of inherent physical differences between the sexes,” Goodwin wrote. “This is not an overbroad generalization, but rather a general principle that realistically reflects the average physical differences between the sexes. Given [the 11-year-old student’s] concession that circulating testosterone in males creates a biological difference in athletic performance, I do not see how I could find that the state’s classification based on biological sex is not substantially related to its interest in providing equal athletic opportunities for females.

“… The legislature’s definition of ‘girl’ as being based on ‘biological sex’ is substantially related to the important government interest of providing equal athletic opportunities for females,” Goodwin wrote.

The judge was placed on the bench by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Goodwin referenced events in Connecticut, where two biological boys who identify as girls won multiple state track titles in the female division.

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“The question before the court is whether the legislature’s chosen definition of ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ in this context is constitutionally permissible,” he wrote. “I find that it is.”

Meanwhile, Goodwin also ruled that the law does not violate Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities.

Alliance Defending Freedom applauded the judge’s decision. ADF intervened in the suit and represented Lainey Armistead, a former West Virginia State University soccer player who supported the law.

“Today’s decision is a win for reality,” said ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer. “The truth matters, and it is crucial that our laws and policies recognize that the physical differences between men and women matter, especially in a context like sports. Female athletes deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition, safety on the field, and women’s athletic opportunities. Female athletes across the country are losing medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete because of males competing in women’s sports. The court was right to affirm that West Virginia’s law is not only constitutional, but consistent with Title IX.”

Related:

‘Judicial Sanity’: Appeals Court Rejects Trans Student’s Challenge to School Bathroom Policy

Photo courtesy: Zach Lucero/Unsplash


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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