EXCLUSIVE – West Virginia soccer player Lainey Armistead could give the Supreme Court its first shot at issuing a ruling on the controversial subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports.
Armistead and her lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on her case against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). That group is trying to strike down West Virginia’s Save Women’s Sports Act, which bans male student athletes who identify and present themselves as female from playing on girls’ school sports teams.
When the state law was passed in 2021, it was immediately met with a lawsuit from the ACLU, which represented Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender middle school student who was barred from joining the girl’s cross-country team.
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The ACLU argued the law violated Pepper-Jackson’s rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits sex-based discrimination.
Armistead decided to intervene in the case on behalf of herself and other female athletes in the state by becoming a party to the lawsuit brought by the ACLU. She said that while she “never dreamed this would be an issue in West Virginia,” she realized the ACLU’s lawsuit could potentially threaten her own competition.
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“I love soccer. I played it my entire life. I grew up playing under my dad’s teams and then playing against my brothers. And I noticed from a really young age that there was a big biological difference even between my younger brother. Even though I was two years older, he was still stronger, fitter, and faster than me, “Armistead said in an interview with Fox News Digital.
“And whenever I heard about the Connecticut lawsuit or just the girls losing out, I was really devastated for them because I know how much work all these athletes have put into their individual sports,” Armistead said.
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The Connecticut lawsuit involved three high school female track and field athletes who sued the state after they were forced to compete against a male and lost out on numerous scholarship opportunities, athletic recognition awards and state championship titles. The nearly five-year litigation is still ongoing.
“And then I heard about the West Virginia Save Women’s Sports law,” Armistead said. “And whenever I had the privilege to defend it, and defend all the girls and women in West Virginia from not having to play against biological males, I was excited.”
A district court early this year ruled in favor of the West Virginia law, saying that it was both constitutional and consistent with Title IX, which protects against sex-based discrimination.
The ALCU appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit, and also asked for an injunction, meaning a pause in the law’s effect while the lawsuit plays out.
Christiana Keifer, senior attorney for ADF, said the Fourth Circuit granted that request, allowing the male athlete to try out for girl’s spring sports “in a four-page order that has no factual basis and no legal analysis.”
Keifer is optimistic the Supreme Court will opt to hear her case. “What the Fourth Circuit did was not only wrong, as it relates to protecting fairness and equal opportunities for female athletes. But it’s also wrong as a matter of law and how they went about it. And stopping the valid law without any factual or legal basis,” she said.
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Thursday’s appeal was filed in conjunction with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in support of the state’s law.
Fox News Digital’s Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.