Attorney General James Leads Multistate Coalition to Protect Transgender Students’ Rights

Coalition of 18 Attorneys General File Amicus Brief to Support a West Virginia Transgender Student’s Right to Join Sports Teams

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James co-led a coalition of 18 attorneys general to support a student challenging a West Virginia law that bans transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The student, B.P.J., was prohibited from joining her school’s girls’ cross country and track teams and filed a lawsuit against the board of education. In an amicus brief filed in B.P.J. v. West Virginia Board of Education, the coalition of attorneys general argue that the sole purpose of the West Virginia law is to exclude and stigmatize transgender students like B.P.J. and therefore it clearly violates her right to equal protection under the law. 

“When a transgender student is prevented from playing on the sports team consistent with their gender identity, their rights are taken away from them and we will not stand for it,” said Attorney General James. “Transgender students should be afforded the same opportunities as their peers and deserve to live without fear of discrimination or stigma. 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, asks the court to reverse a lower court ruling which dismissed B.P.J.’s lawsuit. The attorneys general argue that the West Virginia statute, which bans B.P.J. from participating on her school’s all-girls cross country and track teams, violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as it 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 notes 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 Americans make valuable contributions to our communities as teachers, essential workers, firefighters, doctors, and more, but face discrimination, violence, and harassment that limits their ability to realize their potential. One survey of transgender students by the National School Climate Survey found that 77 percent of respondents 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. Last month, Attorney General James called out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for violating public university students’ right to privacy over his request for information on those receiving gender-affirming care. Last December, Attorney General James led a multi-state coalition of attorneys general to support equal access to gender-affirming care in West Virginia. In November 2022, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general to support transgender students seeking to participate in sex-segregated school sportsconsistent with their gender identity in Indiana. Attorney General James has led or co-led coalitions of attorneys general to challenge policies prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms which correspond with their gender identity in Indiana, Florida, and Virginia.

Joining Attorney General James in filing the brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Mark S. Grube, Deputy Solicitor General Judith N. Vale, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions.