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Female athletes, coaches, feminists, 21 states urge US Supreme Court to protect women’s sports

Multiple friend-of-the-court briefs filed with high court in support of WV’s women’s sports law
If we want a future where girls can earn a competitive scholarship and a spot on the team, we have to protect fairness in sports

WASHINGTON – Twenty-one states, 67 female athletes and their parents, numerous coaches and sports officials, and a feminist group united in support of safeguarding equal athletic opportunities for women and girls by filing friend-of-the-court briefs Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of West Virginia’s law protecting women’s sports.

In the first case to come before the Supreme Court addressing today’s threats to women’s sports, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the West Virginia attorney general’s office filed a motion Thursday asking the high court to reverse a federal appeals court’s injunction blocking the state’s law without providing any rationale. In the case, B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education, ADF attorneys represent Lainey Armistead, a former West Virginia State University soccer player who intervened in the lawsuit to defend the law.

“Women of all ages and skill levels deserve to compete on a level playing field. Laws like West Virginia’s women’s sports law affirm why we have women’s and girls’ teams in the first place: equal opportunity,” said ADF Legal Counsel Rachel Csutoros. “The female athletes we represent in multiple lawsuits, as well as the dozens of female athletes who have joined in support of fairness in women’s sports, have been denied opportunities and medals because they were forced to compete against males. We urge the Supreme Court to listen to their stories and ensure that women and girls aren’t made to be spectators in their own sports.”

Among the 67 female athletes, their family members, coaches, and sports officials who filed a brief are Martina Navratilova, 59x Grand Slam Champion; Jennifer Sees, former NCAA track athlete, high school track coach, and parent of an NCAA soccer player; Summer Sanders, Olympic gold medalist; Courtney DeSoto, mother of a high school female athlete; and Jill Sterkel, an Olympic swimmer, former world record holder, and former University of Texas head swim coach. As their brief states, all “have been forced to compete against males or to suffer the psychological impact of helplessly watching the forced competition of men against women.”

Feminist group Women’s Liberation Front explained in its brief how women’s sex-based civil rights “are threatened when court decisions and agency policies embrace the vague concept of ‘gender identity’ in a manner that overrides statutory and Constitutional protections that are based explicitly on ‘sex.’ If, as a matter of law, ‘sex’ is no longer understood to be an immutable characteristic, but instead merely a subjective self-declared and mutable ‘identity’—then the ability to protect women and girls from sex-based discrimination is greatly diminished.”

Many states “have been forced to wade through years of litigation and employ costly experts to justify” how it defines a female, including for official government records and, as here, when designating “sports team[s]” for women and girls, the brief led by the states of Alabama and Arkansas, and joined by 19 other states, explains. Worse, forcing “States to define sex according to gender identity would jeopardize States’ ability to enforce coherent sex-conscious policies,” the brief continues.

In January, a federal district court upheld West Virginia’s law, rejecting a legal challenge that would have undermined women’s sports in the state by allowing males who identify as female to compete on girls’ and women’s teams. The plaintiff, a male athlete, then asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to halt enforcement of the law during the appeal so the athlete could compete in girls’ sports this spring. Days later, the 4th Circuit granted the request without providing any legal or factual basis for its decision—only stating that the injunction was granted. In Thursday’s motion, ADF attorneys asked the Supreme Court to vacate the 4th Circuit’s decision and allow West Virginia’s duly enacted women’s sports law to take full effect.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Rachel Csutoros
Rachel Rouleau
Legal Counsel
Rachel Rouleau serves as legal counsel for the Center for Conscience Initiatives with Alliance Defending Freedom.