Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Trans youth and athletes win temporary but important court victories in West Virginia, Ohio, and New York

While the country's attention seems to be somewhere else (ugh), the trans community, particularly our trans kids and athletes, received three court victories on Tuesday. While they are temporary for now, each victory is of vital importance.

A federal appeals court has ruled that transgender students in West Virginia may play on sports teams that align with their gender identity. In a landmark decision on Tuesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a West Virginia law that prohibited transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports teams, deeming it a violation of Title IX, which bars sex-based discrimination in education. The Associated Press reports that this ruling impacts the case of 13-year-old Becky Pepper Jackson, who has identified as a girl since the third grade and is undergoing puberty-blocking treatment. 
 According to the AP, in February 2023, an interim court decision prevented the state from barring Jackson from her middle school track and field team under this law. Judge Toby Heytens, in his ruling, emphasized that the so-called choice between not playing sports or playing on boys’ teams offered no genuine option. 

“B.P.J. has been recognized by her community and legally changed her name, and West Virginia has issued a birth certificate listing her sex as female,” Heytens wrote, supporting the view that denying her participation in girls’ teams was discriminatory.

 Lambda Legal, representing Becky, highlighted the discriminatory nature of the law. “West Virginia’s effort to ban one 13-year-old transgender girl from joining her teammates on the middle school cross country and track team was singling out Becky for disparate treatment because of her sex,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Sruti Swaminathan. “That’s discrimination, pure and simple, and we applaud the court for arriving at this just decision,” she added.

 . . . The ruling reflects broader national debates and legal battles over transgender rights in sports, healthcare, and public accommodations. This decision aligns West Virginia with states like Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, where similar bans have been temporarily blocked, while states like Alabama and Texas continue to enforce such prohibitions. 

 The other victory has to do with a temporary block on Ohio's law banning gender-affirming care for trans kids. From USA Today: 

 An Ohio judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an impending law that would restrict medical care for transgender minors in the Buckeye State. The decision came weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the state on behalf of two transgender girls and their families. The measure prevents doctors from prescribing hormones, puberty blockers, or gender reassignment surgery before patients turn 18. Attorneys contend the law violates the state Constitution, which gives Ohioans the right to choose their health care.

 “Today’s ruling is a victory for transgender Ohioans and their families,” said Harper Seldin, staff attorney for the ACLU. “Ohio’s ban is an openly discriminatory breach of the rights of transgender youth and their parents alike and presents a real danger to the same young people it claims to protect.” 

 The legislation was set to take effect on April 24 after House and Senate Republicans voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto. Proponents of the bill contend it will protect children, but critics say decisions about transition care should be left to families and their medical providers. 

And finally, a victory for trans athletes in New York. 

 A federal judge has opened the door for New York State Attorney General Letitia James to challenge a Nassau County executive order barring trans girls from participating in girls’ sports in Nassau facilities. District Court Judge Nusrat J. Choudhury summarily dismissed a lawsuit against James from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican official elected in 2021 and the architect behind the anti-trans policy. Blakeman’s suit attempted to stop James from being able to challenge the order. 

 “The law is perfectly clear: you cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression. We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” James said in March. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal. Nassau County must immediately rescind the order, or we will not hesitate to take decisive legal action.” 

 The order doesn’t just affect trans girls. It also impacts over 100 athletic facilities throughout Nassau County, according to Newsday, since trans girls and women are now banned from participating on women’s teams at those sites. Groups looking for permission to use Nassau County facilities like swimming pools, football fields, and basketball courts must “expressly designate” the team members’ “biological sex at birth” as male, female, or coed.