New York Attorney General Letitia James and Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez are co-leading a coalition consisting of 18 state attorneys general that aims to ensure that transgender students can join sports teams based on their gender identity.
The coalition filed an amicus brief on Monday challenging a West Virginia law that bans transgender students from participating on sports teams based on their gender identity.
The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for B.P.J. v. West Virginia Board of Education, a lawsuit filed by a 12-year-old transgender girl against the West Virginia statute barring transgender female students from joining female sports teams.
The attorneys general argue that “the sole purpose of the West Virginia law is to exclude and stigmatize transgender students like B.P.J. and therefore it clearly violates her right to equal protection under the law.”
The attorneys general point to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The brief asks the court to reverse a lower court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit.
“When a transgender student is prevented from playing on the sports team consistent with their gender identity, their rights are taken away from them and we will not stand for it,” said James in a statement.
The coalition includes attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, however, says the law, which was enacted in 2021, aims to “protect the integrity of women’s sports.”
“We are resolute in protecting opportunities for women and girls in sports because when biological males win in a women’s event — as has happened time and again — female athletes lose their opportunity to shine,” Morrisey said in a statement.
There are about 300,000 youth who identify as transgender in the U.S., according to James’ office. Currently, 19 states have bans on transgender students preventing them from joining sports teams that align with their gender identity. Idaho was the first state to enact the transgender sports ban in March 2020. Wyoming became the most recent state in March.
The New York City Public Schools system supports transgender students in their pursuit in sports and physical education. The DOE guideline states: “Transgender and gender expansive students must be given the same opportunities to participate in physical education as all other students. Generally, a student must be permitted to participate in physical education, intramural sports, and competitive athletic activities and contact sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity asserted at school.”
As for the state, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the governing body for most public schools in New York outside of NYC, is also committed to providing all students with the opportunity to participate in NYSPHSAA activities in a manner consistent with their gender identity and the New York State Commissioner of Education’s Regulations.
There is national support from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which supports college athletes across the nation. The NCAA Board of Governors updated its transgender student-athlete participation policy on Jan. 19, 2022 to preserve opportunity for transgender student-athletes. Participation is now determined by the particular sport’s national governing body or international federation policy, if there is no such body.
The NCAA policy also mandates that transgender athletes document testosterone levels four weeks before their sport’s championship selections.
James most recently addressed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in his move to request private health information from Florida public university students receiving gender-affirming care.
“Transgender students should be afforded the same opportunities as their peers and deserve to live without fear of discrimination or stigma,” James said in a statement. “My office is dedicated to combating any effort to restrict rights or punish people solely for being who they are.”