New York appeals court to hear case against Connecticut athletic conference that allows transgender athletes to compete

Story at a glance

  • A New York appeals court on Thursday will hear a case brought against Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) over a policy that allows transgender girls to compete in high school sports against cisgender girls.

  • A lawsuit filed in 2020 by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of four cisgender female athletes claims the policy violates Title IX.

  • A U.S. District Court judge last year dismissed the case because both transgender athletes named as defendants had graduated high school and the remaining plaintiffs did not identify any other transgender athletes that would be competing against them.

A New York appeals court on Thursday will hear a case brought against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) and several local school districts over a policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in high school sports.

The hearing stems from a 2020 lawsuit filed in federal court by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm, on behalf of four cisgender female athletes that claimed athletic opportunities had been unfairly taken away from them by transgender women and girls.

The initial complaint alleged that guidelines set by CIAC in 2013 for transgender athletes to compete in school sports are discriminatory because they “regularly” result in transgender female athletes “displacing” cisgender girls in competitive athletic events.

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“In scholastic track competition in Connecticut, more boys than girls are experiencing victory,” the lawsuit states, implying that transgender female runners in the state are winning more races than cisgender female athletes.

The lawsuit had sought a preliminary injunction to bar transgender girls from competing in the 2020 spring outdoor track season, which was later cancelled because of school shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs had also demanded that the five Connecticut school districts named in the complaint admit to violating Title IX by allowing transgender girls to compete against cisgender girls.

The lawsuit had also sought to change state track results and records set by transgender female runners Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. Both women graduated high school in 2020 and do not compete at the collegiate level.

The case was dismissed last year by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny, who ruled that the request for an injunction blocking the enforcement of the CIAC policy was “moot” because the athletes named as defendants were no longer high school students, and the plaintiffs did not identify any other transgender girls that were likely to compete against them the following season.

“There is no indication that [the plaintiffs] will encounter competition by a transgender student in a CIAC-sponsored event next season,” Chatigny wrote in his decision. “Defendants’ counsel have represented that they know of no transgender student who will be participating in girls’ track at that time.”

The plaintiffs filed to appeal Chatigny’s ruling shortly after. Each of the plaintiffs — Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti — have graduated from high school. Soule, Mitchell and Smith now compete for NCAA Division 1 track and field programs.

Miller and Yearwood are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut and the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut. They have received the support of more than 150 current and former athletes in women’s sports, including Megan Rapinoe and Billie Jean King.

“I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller said in a 2020 statement after the initial complaint was filed. “I am a girl and I am a runner.”

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