Federal judge dismisses lawsuit that sought to block transgender female athletes from competing in girls high school sports in Connecticut

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit that sought to block transgender female athletes from competing in girls high school sports in Connecticut

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny has dismissed on procedural grounds a lawsuit filed in federal court against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which sought to halt transgender female athletes from participating in girls high school sports in Connecticut, but the plaintiffs say they will appeal the ruling.

“I conclude that the plaintiffs’ challenge to the CIAC policy is not justiciable at this time and their claims for monetary relief are barred and dismiss the action on this basis without addressing the other grounds raised in the joint motion,” Chatigny wrote in a ruling released Sunday.

Chatigny stated that because the two transgender athletes, Terry Miller of Bloomfield and Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell, have graduated and the plaintiffs could no longer identify any other transgender female athletes, there was no further dispute to resolve.

Chatigny left open the possibility of a new challenge if additional transgender athletes were to compete during the coming year.

“I conclude that the request to enjoin enforcement of the CIAC policy has become moot due to the graduation of Yearwood and Miller, whose participation in girls’ track provided the impetus for this action,” he wrote. “There is no indication that [two of the plaintiffs Alanna] Smith and [Ashley] Nicoletti will encounter competition by a transgender student in a CIAC-sponsored event next season.

“Defendants’ counsel have represented that they know of no transgender student who will be participating in girls’ track at that time. It is still theoretically possible that a transgender student could attempt to do so. Even then, however, a legally cognizable injury to these plaintiffs would depend on a transgender student running in the same events and achieving substantially similar times. Such ‘speculative contingencies’ are insufficient to satisfy the case.”

CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini declined to comment Sunday, saying he would wait until he had a chance to review the ruling with the organization’s legal counsel.

The plaintiffs said in a statement released by the conservative Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom that they planned to appeal the decision.

“It’s discouraging that the court ruled to dismiss my right to compete on a level playing field,” said Chelsea Mitchell of Canton, one of the athletes represented by ADF. “Today’s ruling ignores the physical advantages that male athletes have over female athletes. Female athletes like me should have the opportunity to excel and compete fairly. No girl should have to settle into her starting blocks knowing that, no matter how hard she works, she doesn’t have a fair shot at victory.”

The lawsuit sought to reverse a CIAC policy that allows athletes to participate in sports corresponding with their gender identity and require athletes to compete based on their birth sex, as well as result in changes to state track records set by transgender female runners.

The cisgender runners who filed the suit were Mitchell, Selina Soule of Glastonbury, and Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti of Danbury. Soule and Mitchell have since graduated from high school.

Chatigny stated that if another transgender female runner did compete in the same events against Smith, a junior at Danbury High, and Nicoletti, a junior at Immaculate High in Danbury, the two runners would be able to file a new action under Title IX along with a motion for preliminary injunction. He also stated that the placement of Miller and Yearwood in races they ran did not have to be revised, as the plaintiffs requested.

Chatigny also denied monetary damages requested by the plaintiffs.

Chatigny listened to arguments on Feb. 26 from lawyers representing the CIAC seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the families of female track athletes in February 2020, as well as lawyers from the ADF, who represented the cisgender girls who filed the suit.

The CIAC has stated that it is following state law, which prevents discrimination against people who are transgender. The cisgender female track athletes had previously filed a Title IX complaint against the CIAC and school districts in which the transgender girls competed.

In February, the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights removed their support for the lawsuit. Former Attorney General William Barr had signed a statement of interest in the lawsuit last March.

Also in February, the Office of Civil Rights withdrew its enforcement action against the CIAC and its member schools named in the Title IX complaint. The complaint was filed in June of 2019 by the same group of female track athletes who claimed that Miller and Yearwood had an athletic advantage and were denying cisgender girls spots in the State Open or New England championships as well chances to perform in front of college coaches at higher-level competitions. The defense attorneys argued in February that the transgender runners had not beaten the cisgender runners in every instance.

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.