Press Release

Cooley, ACLU and Lambda Legal Secure Win for Transgender Student Athlete in West Virginia

April 18, 2024

San Francisco – April 18, 2024 – Cooley, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of West Virginia and Lambda Legal, secured a win for client Becky Pepper-Jackson in B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Cooley team included Kathleen Hartnett, Katelyn Kang, Zoe Helstrom, Elizabeth Reinhardt and Mariah Young.

In May 2021, Cooley and co-counsel filed a lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of Pepper-Jackson, challenging West Virginia’s House Bill (HB) 3293, which barred Pepper-Jackson from participating on middle school girls’ sports teams because she is transgender. The lawsuit alleged that HB 3293 violates the equal protection clause and Title IX.

The district court initially granted Pepper-Jackson’s motion and preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the law against her in July 2021. However, in January 2023, the district court reversed its approach and entered judgment against Pepper-Jackson, holding that West Virginia’s law violates neither equal protection nor Title IX. The district court also dissolved the preliminary injunction.

Cooley and co-counsel sought reinstatement of the preliminary injunction while the case was on appeal, which the Fourth Circuit granted in February 2023, allowing Pepper-Jackson to join her middle school track and field team in spring 2023. The appeal was argued in October 2023, and on April 16, 2024, the Fourth Circuit determined that the West Virginia law cannot be applied to prevent Pepper-Jackson from participating on girls’ sports teams.

Read the ruling ›

The case is B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education in the US Supreme Court (case number 23-1078).

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