Cooley + Coalition Sue West Virginia to Challenge Law Discriminating Against Transgender Youth
San Francisco – June 1, 2021 – Cooley, alongside co-counsel the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU West Virginia and Lambda Legal, filed a lawsuit challenging HB 3293, West Virginia’s new law banning girls and women who are transgender from participating in school sports. Partner Kathleen Hartnett led the Cooley effort.
The lawsuit is brought by and on behalf of 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, who was going to try out for her middle school’s girls’ cross-country team when Governor Jim Justice signed HB 3293 into law. The law is one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021.
“We look forward to showing in court that this law should be enjoined as unlawful and that Becky should have the same opportunity to play sports as any other child,” said Hartnett.
In a news release, Pepper-Jackson stated, “I just want to run, I come from a family of runners. I know how hurtful a law like this is to all kids like me who just want to play sports with their classmates, and I’m doing this for them. Trans kids deserve better.”
During legislative debate, HB 3293 was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020 – the result of a challenge filed by Cooley, the ACLU, the ACLU of Idaho and Legal Voice – and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams.
“Countless studies have shown the beneficial impact participating in team sports has for kids growing up,” Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial law fellow with Lambda Legal, noted.
“Transgender youth in West Virginia who want to be on a team and challenge themselves should have the opportunity to do so, just like any other student,” added Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU.
Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations, including numerous organizations that focus on LGBTQ+ rights, to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.
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