A federal judge’s ruling recently just gave a big boost to the West Virginia and national effort to protect girls and women’s sports from unfair competition from males claiming to be females.
In 2021 the West Virginia legislature passed House Bill 3293 (HB 3293) that restricts participation in single-sex interscholastic sports to the actual sex of the student at time of birth. The law was passed as part of a multi-state effort to protect girls and women’s sports from the increasing dominance of so-called “transgender” athletes – men who say they are females and compete in athletic competitions designed for female athletes.
HB 3293 was immediately challenged in the federal courts by attorneys with the ACLU on behalf of an 11-year-old boy – known only as “B.P.J.” in court documents – who wanted to compete on his school’s girls track and cross-country teams.
In addition to the state government defendants in the lawsuit, a female athlete named Lainey Armistead, who is a former West Virginia State University soccer player, was permitted by the court to intervene in the lawsuit to help defend the law. Armistead is represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
On January 5 Judge Joseph Goodwin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled in favor of the state law and rejected the claims by B.P.J. that the law violated the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
Judge Goodwin’s ruling boiled down to the simple biological fact that in general, males outperform females in athletics because of their physiological differences rendered even more pronounced by going through puberty.
“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 in his decision. “This is not an overbroad generalization, but rather a general principle that realistically reflects the average physical differences between the sexes.
“Given B.P.J.’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.”
ADF Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer applauded the court’s decision in a press release.
“Today’s decision is a win for reality,” Kiefer stated. “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.”
Armistead also expressed satisfaction with the ruling.
“I believe that protecting fairness in women’s sports is a women’s rights issue,” Armistead said. “This isn’t just about fair play for me: It’s about protecting fairness and safety for female athletes across West Virginia.
“It’s about ensuring that future generations of female athletes are not discriminated against but have access to the same equal athletic opportunities that shaped my life. Being an athlete in college has made me even more passionate about the sport that I play. I want fairness, equality, and safety in sports. And I want to ensure those standards are protected for other girls, too.”
Eighteen states have passed bills similar to West Virginia’s in the last few years.
Photo from ADF.