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A federal judge has ruled that a Harrison County transgender girl can, at least for now, play on the girls teams at her school, despite the Republican-dominated state Legislature passing a law this year to ban that.

Heather Jackson filed a lawsuit in May, saying her 11-year-old daughter, Becky Pepper-Jackson, wanted to try out for the cross-country and track teams for the upcoming school year.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin granted Wednesday a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the law against just Pepper-Jackson while the case continues.

“Whether the law is facially unconstitutional is an issue raised in the Complaint and will be resolved at a later stage of litigation,” he wrote.

The law took effect this month.

“At this point, I have been provided with scant evidence that this law addresses any problem at all, let alone an important problem,” Goodwin wrote. “When the government distinguishes between different groups of people, those distinctions must be supported by compelling reasons.”

He wrote that he was issuing the preliminary injunction because the plaintiffs are likely to ultimately win their arguments that the law is unconstitutional “as it applies to her” and that it violates Title IX, the landmark federal law banning sex-based discrimination.

“It is clearly in the public interest to uphold B.P.J.’s constitutional right to not be treated any differently than her similarly situated peers because any harm to B.P.J.’s personal rights is a harm to the share of American rights that we all hold collectively,” Goodwin wrote, using Pepper-Jackson’s initials. “The right not to be discriminated against by the government belongs to all of us in equal measure. It is that communal and shared ownership of freedom that makes up the American ideal.”

The suit wasn’t filed against the Legislature, but instead against the state Board of Education, the Harrison County Board of Education and the Secondary School Activities Commission.

These defendants responded, in part, by saying they can’t be held liable for an anti-transgender law they didn’t ask for and largely won’t be responsible for enforcing.

They also didn’t publicly speak out against it.

Since the suit was filed, the state itself and Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey were added as defendants, after the state moved to intervene in the case and Goodwin allowed that.

Goodwin was nominated to his judgeship by former president Bill Clinton, and he’s the father of Booth Goodwin, who’s the husband of Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin and part of a family with a history of Democratic Party leadership.

Reach Ryan Quinn at,,

304-348-1254 or follow

@RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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