Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Women, Affirms Policy of Allowing Transgender Girls to Compete on Female Sports Teams in Connecticut Case
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit to bar two transgender athletes — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — from competing in the 2020 spring outdoor track season on a girls team at a Connecticut school.
Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, a lawsuit filed on behalf of four female athletes who were consistently deprived of honors and opportunities to compete at elite levels because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference adopted a policy that allows males who identify as female to compete in girls’ athletic events.
Starting in 2017, two male athletes began competing in Connecticut girls’ high school track. In just three years, those two males broke 17 girls’ track meet records, deprived girls of more than 85 opportunities to advance to the next level of competition and took 15 women’s state track championship titles. Four of those championship titles were earned by ADF’s client, Chelsea Mitchell. Four times she was the fastest female in a women’s state championship race, and four times she watched that title, honor, and recognition go to a male athlete instead. Over the course of her high school career, Mitchell lost to these males more than 20 times.
The other female athletes represented in this case, Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti, all likewise have been denied medals, placements, or advancement opportunities because of the male athletes competing on their team.
On Friday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against women and affirmed a policy allowing transgender students to compete on girls’ teams.
Transgender athletes in Connecticut and their advocates secured a victory on Friday when an appeals court ruled that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) may move forward with a policy that allows transgender girls to compete on female sports teams.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that discrimination against transgender students violates Title IX, which prevents educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating based on sex.
“Today’s ruling is a critical victory for fairness, equality, and inclusion,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who represented the CIAC, five Connecticut school boards and two former athletes in the case, said in a statement. “This critical victory strikes at the heart of political attacks against transgender youth while helping ensure every young person has the right to play.”
In a 2020 complaint, four cisgender high school athletes — Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti — alleged athletic opportunities had been taken away from them by transgender girls and argued that a 2013 CIAC policy permitting transgender athletes to compete on sports teams consistent with their gender identity was discriminatory because it had “regularly” resulted in the displacement of cisgender girls in competitive athletic events.
“In scholastic track competition in Connecticut, more boys than girls are experiencing victory,” the initial lawsuit stated, referring to the transgender female athletes.
Regarding the ruling, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer shared, “The 2nd Circuit got it wrong, and we’re evaluating all legal options, including appeal. Our clients—like all female athletes—deserve access to fair competition. Thankfully, a growing number of states are stepping up to protect women’s athletics. Right now, 18 states have enacted laws that protect women and girls from having to compete against males, and polls show that a majority of Americans agree that the competition is no longer fair when males are permitted to compete in women’s sports. Every woman deserves the respect and dignity that comes with having an equal opportunity to excel and win in athletics, and ADF remains committed to protecting the future of women’s sports.”
The full ruling can be read here.
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