ADF Still Seeking to Uphold Women's Sports in West Virginia
Update: April 6, 2023 - The U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave in place for now a federal appeals court’s temporary injunction that prevents West Virginia from enforcing its law protecting women’s sports while the case continues in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Read the press release.
Along with several other states, West Virginia is taking a stand to make sure women and girls have a level playing field.
When it comes to secondary and collegiate athletics, West Virginia’s women's sports law makes sure that males who identify as female cannot take a spot from a deserving girl on any athletic team.
The "Save Women’s Sports" law is a commonsense law that protects equal opportunity, fairness, and safety for women. But it has been threatened by a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Alliance Defending Freedom intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Lainey Armistead, who played soccer at West Virginia State University (WVSU).
Who is Lainey Armistead?
For Lainey Armistead, soccer is far more than “just a game.” She defines it as a “passion and a life-defining pursuit.”
“Soccer was like the air I breathed growing up. I first kicked a soccer ball at three years old—almost as soon as I could walk,” Lainey says.
“I have made many sacrifices over the course of my athletic career to play the sport that I love. I have missed school dances, spring breaks, family events, and friends’ birthdays. I have given up my weekends and free time. I stay at school late for practice and get up early to train.”
“But I make these sacrifices because I want to be the best that I can be. I want to win—not just for myself, but also for my teammates.”
Lainey played left back for the Yellow Jackets and served as team captain.
B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education
In 2021, West Virginia joined several other states—including Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Arkansas, and Florida—in passing legislation that keeps males who identify as transgender from competing in women’s sports.
This commonsense law ensures equal opportunities for women and girls in sports and protects their safety by making sure they are not forced to compete against males. But the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the "Save Women’s Sports" law in a lawsuit.
As a longtime athlete who could be directly affected by the law and the ACLU’s challenge to it, Lainey Armistead stood up to defend not only her own interests, but also the basic standards of fairness and safety for female athletes across West Virginia.
What's at stake?
A male’s belief about his gender identity doesn’t erase his physical advantages over female athletes, and girls deserve to compete on a level playing field.
“As one who grew up in a house full of brothers who played soccer, and a dad who coached soccer, Lainey is well-acquainted with the physical differences that give males an athletic performance advantage,” said ADF Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer.
“[S]occer is a rough contact sport: concussion, knee, and ankle injuries are common among female players. Add into the mix a male who races down the field at a faster pace, kicks the ball harder, and slams into other players with a larger physical frame, and the risk of injury to girls and women increases dramatically.”
- April 2021: West Virginia passed the "Save Women’s Sports" law.
- July 2021: A federal district judge temporarily blocked West Virginia from enforcing the law against the plaintiff.
- September 2021: ADF attorneys representing Lainey Armistead filed a motion asking a federal district court to allow Lainey to intervene to defend the law.
- December 2021: The district court issued an order allowing Lainey to intervene.
- January 5 2023: The federal district judge granted summary judgment in favor of Lainey and dissolved the preliminary injunction that was initially put in place, affirming that the women's sports law is constitutional.
- February 2023: The plaintiff appealed that ruling to the U.S court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which issued an injunction blocking West Virginia’s women’s sports law. The appeals court did not provide any rationale for its decision.
- March 2023: Attorneys with ADF and the West Virginia attorney general’s office filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court’s injunction.
- April 2023: The Supreme Court declined to vacate the 4th Circuit’s decision and allow West Virginia’s law to take full effect. The Court did not rule on the merits of the case, which continues at the appeals court.
The bottom line
Allowing males who identify as transgender to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition, safety on the field, and women’s athletic opportunities. When biological differences between men and women are ignored within our laws and culture, people get hurt.
ADF team members contributed to the writing and publication of this article.