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B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education

Description:  A legal challenge to West Virginia’s Save Women’s Sports Act that, if successful, would undermine women’s sports by allowing males who identify as female to compete with females in girls’ and women’s sports.

Wednesday, Jul 12, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. – Newly obtained information has revealed that a middle-school male athlete competing on a West Virginia girls’ track team and suing to challenge the state’s law protecting women’s sports has displaced more than 100 female athletes more than 280 times and denied two girls spots in the conference championship. In light of the significant new facts, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the state attorney general’s office filed a motion Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit asking it to suspend the injunction that is holding up full implementation of the law.

The law at issue in the case B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education was enacted to ensure equal athletic opportunities for women. The male athlete, who attends Bridgeport Middle School, asked the 4th Circuit to halt enforcement of the law while on appeal so the athlete could compete on the girls’ track team. The court granted the request, relying on the athlete’s repeated assurances that the injunction “will harm no one.” But the motion to dissolve the injunction on appeal explains that significant changes have occurred since the court entered the injunction three months ago: The male athlete’s physical advantage and athletic ability have dramatically improved to the point that the athlete is now repeatedly taking away athletic opportunities from girls.

“When you ignore biological reality and allow males to compete on girls’ sports teams, girls are harmed and denied athletic opportunities—even in middle school,” said ADF Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer. “This male athlete’s athletic success demonstrates that the injunction against West Virginia’s women’s sports law is undeniably causing multiple girls to suffer, and we urge the 4th Circuit to take immediate action and restore a fair playing field for female athletes.”

The new motion askes the court to suspend the injunction while the appeal moves forward to ensure that female athletes in West Virginia endure no further harm. As they explain, “The results from the recent spring track-and-field season speak for themselves: [The male athlete] is displacing girls out of top spots in competition and off of coveted roster spots at championship and other meets. This undeniable, quantitative evidence constitutes a significant change that make it inequitable to leave the injunction in place because it will injure yet more girls in the fall season.”

“West Virginia passed its women’s sports law to protect female athletes, requiring males to compete on teams consistent with their sex. This path is legal, logical, and longstanding,” said ADF Vice President of Litigation Strategy and Center for Conscience Initiatives Jonathan Scruggs. “In light of the consequential new facts in this lawsuit, we’re urging the 4th Circuit to allow West Virginia to enforce its validly enacted law that protects female athletes and their athletic opportunities.”

ADF attorneys represent Lainey Armistead, a former West Virginia State University soccer player who intervened in the lawsuit to defend the state’s law.

In a recent op-ed, West Virginia middle-schooler Taylor Allen wrote about her experience as a female athlete and urged the court to defend the state’s law protecting women’s sports: “The case in my home state, like others around the country, is about whether boys should be able to play in girls’ sports if they identify as girls. The truth is, if West Virginia allowed that at my school, I’d lose my dream. There’s no way I could be one of the best players if there were boys on the court with me.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Kiefer (KEE’-fer)

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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ABOUT Christiana Kiefer

Christiana Kiefer serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives. Since joining ADF in 2012, Kiefer has worked to protect women's and girls' sports and has defended the bodily privacy rights of students. She has also worked to protect the constitutionally protected freedom of churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries to exercise their faith without government interference. Kiefer earned her J.D. in 2010 from Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy, where she graduated first in her class and served as a teaching assistant in criminal law. Also in 2010, Kiefer completed the ADF leadership development program to become a Blackstone Fellow. She is admitted to the state bar of California, the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous federal district and appellate courts.

ABOUT Jonathan Scruggs

Jonathan Scruggs serves as senior counsel and vice president of litigation strategy and the Center for Conscience Initiatives with Alliance Defending Freedom. In this role, he identifies new litigation opportunities and develops new strategies for protecting free speech and religious liberty in collaboration with the chief legal counsel and litigation team directors. As the leader for the Center for Conscience Initiatives, Scruggs oversees the litigation team defending the rights of professionals and business owners to live out their faith as well as the litigation efforts to protect equal opportunities for women in athletics. Since joining ADF in 2006, Scruggs has worked on and prevailed in a variety of cases that protect the right of people to freely express their faith in their business, at school, and in the public square. He earned his J.D. at Harvard Law School and is admitted to practice in the states of Arizona and Tennessee. Scruggs is also admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple federal district and appellate courts.