© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A TV camera points to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2023 REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) -West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said on Thursday the state will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to allow enforcement of a law banning transgender athletes from participating on female sports teams after a lower court blocked the measure.

Morrisey, a Republican, told reporters that the state will file a request asking the justices to lift an injunction against the law issued on Feb. 22 by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals while litigation continues over the legality of the measure. A legal challenge was brought by a 12-year-old transgender girl, Becky Pepper-Jackson.

“This is a matter of basic common sense and basic fairness. We believe we are absolutely correct on the merits,” Morrisey said.

West Virginia’s law, passed in 2021, bars male public high school or post-secondary students from female athletic teams “based solely on the individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

It is one of numerous Republican-backed measures being pursed at the state level that target the rights of transgender people.

Jackson, who attends a middle school in the West Virginia city of Bridgeport, sued along with her mother Heather after she was not allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams.

The plaintiffs said the law discriminates based on sex and transgender status in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law and the civil rights law Title IX, which bars sex-based discrimination in education.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin initially blocked the law, allowing Becky to participate on the teams. But in January he reversed course, finding that the state measure was lawful. The 4th Circuit subsequently blocked law on hold while the case proceeds.

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