AG James heads 18-state coalition to defend trans students’ athletic rights

April 5, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of five other state attorneys general.Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle
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NATIONWIDE — Attorney General Letitia James is leading a coalition of 18 attorneys general to back a West Virginia student, known as B.P.J., who is challenging a state law that prevents transgender students from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

After being denied the opportunity to join her school’s girls’ cross country and track teams, B.P.J. filed a lawsuit against the board of education. In an amicus brief submitted in the case B.P.J. v. West Virginia Board of Education, the coalition contends that the sole purpose of the West Virginia law is to exclude and stigmatize transgender students like B.P.J., thereby violating her right to equal protection under the law.

“Transgender students should be afforded the same opportunities as their peers and deserve to live without fear of discrimination or stigma,” James said. “My office is dedicated to combating any effort to restrict rights or punish people solely for being who they are.”

The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, urges the court to reverse a lower court ruling that dismissed B.P.J.’s lawsuit. The attorneys general argue that the West Virginia statute, which bans B.P.J. from participating in her school’s all-girls cross country and track teams, violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The statute denies transgender girls like B.P.J. access to the same athletic opportunities that other boys and girls have. The attorneys general want to ensure that federal law is applied properly to protect transgender people from discrimination.

The brief also highlights that over 1.6 million people in the United States, including about 300,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 17, identify as transgender. These individuals contribute significantly to communities as teachers, essential workers, firefighters, doctors, and more. However, they face discrimination, violence, and harassment, limiting their ability to realize their full potential.

The National School Climate Survey found that 77% of transgender students surveyed reported negative experiences in school, including verbal harassment and assault.

Attorney General James has long fought for the rights of transgender students and people and has been a leader in supporting the LGBTQ+ community. She has led or co-led coalitions of attorneys general to challenge policies prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity in Indiana, Florida, and Virginia.

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