Faculty Soccer Participant Information Temporary In Lawsuit Over West Virginia Transgender Athlete Ban

CHARLESTON — As a judge in a federal case against West Virginia’s ban on transgender girls and women student-athletes sets the date for the trial, a new student-athlete is seeking to join the lawsuit in support of the new law.

Attorneys for Lainey Armistead, a junior at West Virginia State University near Charleston, filed a motion Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia seeking to intervene in the lawsuit in support of House Bill 3293, relating to single-sex participation in interscholastic athletic events.

Armistead, a member of the WVSU women’s soccer team, is represented by attorneys with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom and attorney Brandon Steele, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and supporter of the bill that passed the Legislature in April.

According to a press release, Armistead said she is concerned about biological men transitioning to women and playing against biological women, creating a “fairness and safety” issue.

“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.”

HB 3293 requires student athletes in middle school, high school or college to participate in sports that match their biological sex based on the student’s sex at the time of their birth. The bill applies to sports regulated by the NCAA and other college interscholastic organizations, and requires the state Board of Education, the WVSSAC, and state college regulators to create rules for the implementation of the law.

“There are only 11 players per team on the field at any given time. Any male on the women’s soccer field displaces a deserving woman,” said Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. “For all of these reasons and others, we are asking the court to allow Lainey to defend her interests in this case. She deserves a voice in this lawsuit and the opportunity to protect the future of girls’ and women’s sports in West Virginia.”

Attorneys for Becky Pepper-Jackson, an 11-year-old transgender student at Bridgeport Middle School who wished to join her middle school’s girls’ cross-country team, filed suit in May against the Harrison County Board of Education, the West Virginia Board of Education, State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch, and the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.

Pepper-Jackson’s attorneys allege the law violates her federal Title IX rights, prohibiting the exclusion of students from education programs on the basis of sex. They also allege constitutional violations of Pepper-Jackson’s rights under the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin granted Pepper-Jackson a preliminary injunction in July preventing enforcement of HB 3293. Pepper-Jackson is seeking declaration from the court that HB 3293 violates Pepper-Jackson’s rights and a permanent injunction of the law. Goodwin issued a scheduling order Wednesday, setting June 8, 2022 for hearing motions for summary judgment and July 27, 2022 for trial.

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