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More Young Women Sidelined While West Virginia Sports Law on Hold

Female athletes in West Virginia are losing opportunities to compete and win after an order from the 4th Circuit.
Grant Atkinson
Written by
Female athletes in track and field

In virtually all sports, male athletes have an inherent advantage over females—a fact both proven by science and recognized by common sense. Thankfully, Title IX paved the way for the expansion of women’s sports, providing equal athletic opportunities to women and girls by protecting them from having to compete against men and boys.

Our laws must reflect the biological differences between the sexes. When they don’t, it is women and girls who suffer the most. That’s the reason Alliance Defending Freedom is defending a West Virginia law that ensures equal opportunities for female athletes.

In 2021, West Virginia adopted House Bill 3293, commonly known as the “Save Women’s Sports” law. The law was designed to provide women with equal opportunities in sports by ensuring that they are not forced to compete against males.

But the ACLU is challenging the law in court. ACLU attorneys representing B.P.J., a 13-year-old male who identifies as transgender, seemingly ignored the advantages that males have over females and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to halt the law and allow the male to compete on the girls’ sports team. They claimed that an injunction pausing the law’s enforcement would “harm no one.”

The 4th Circuit granted their motion and issued an order temporarily halting West Virginia’s law while the lawsuit proceeds. But in just a few months, the ACLU’s claim—that allowing B.P.J. to participate in girls’ sports wouldn’t take away opportunities for any female athletes—has completely unraveled.

B.P.J, who claimed prior to the 4th Circuit’s ruling to “regularly [finish] near the back of the pack,” has become one of the top three throwers in girls’ shot put and discus at Bridgeport Middle School. Only the top three athletes in each event can compete in the conference championship, meaning female athletes lost out on a chance to compete in the event because of B.P.J.

B.P.J.’s rapid rise hasn’t just displaced athletes at Bridgeport Middle School, either. In the conference championship, the male athlete finished fourth in discus and sixth in shotput, displacing 19 young women in the former event and 20 in the latter. Over the course of the entire season, B.P.J. displaced more than 100 girls over 280 times.

During the previous season, B.P.J. averaged a 47th-place finish in shot put and a 32nd-place finish in discus. This spring, the athlete averaged finishes of 10th and 9th, respectively.

To make matters worse, B.P.J. displaced all these girls while competing in seventh grade. And given the biological differences between men and women, this rapid ascension will only continue as B.P.J. continues to grow physically.

The cross-country season for West Virginia schools begins in the fall, and B.P.J. plans to compete on the middle-school girls’ team as an eighth-grader, almost certainly displacing many more girls along the way.

When asking the circuit court to pause West Virginia’s law, B.P.J.’s attorneys argued that such a scenario would never happen in the case of B.P.J.—that fears about female athletes being displaced were nothing more than “rampant speculation about imagined inequities.” Now it’s clear that those inequities are real, and they are tangibly harming young women in West Virginia.

While the 4th Circuit never explained why it chose to temporarily halt West Virginia’s law, it is reasonable to assume that it accepted B.P.J.’s assertion that an order pausing the law would not harm anyone. But the circumstances have now changed. B.P.J. is no longer at the back of the pack but rather at the front, taking opportunities away from girls. These new facts merit a change in the court’s decision.

In July, ADF attorneys asked the 4th Circuit to suspend its order and allow West Virginia’s law to take full effect because girls deserve to have a chance to compete and to win. Unfortunately, the court denied that request, but the case is still active, and it’s imperative for the court to move quickly to resolve it.

Female athletes shouldn’t face displacement this fall while the lawsuit continues, and the 4th Circuit should ensure they don’t have to.

Grant Atkinson serves as Jr. Digital Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom
Grant Atkinson
Digital Writer
Grant serves as a Digital Writer at Alliance Defending Freedom.