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.
The complaint filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal organization, had sought to bar two transgender athletes — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — from competing in the 2020 spring outdoor track season, which was later canceled due to early pandemic shutdowns.
The lawsuit also demanded an admission from five Connecticut school districts that enforcing the CIAC policy violated Title IX and asked that Miller and Yearwood’s state track records be voided.
Both women graduated high school in 2020 and do not compete at the collegiate level.
A district judge last year dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction was “moot” because Miller and Yearwood were no longer high school students and no other transgender athletes were set to compete against the cisgender athletes the following season.
The plaintiffs, three of whom now compete for NCAA Division I track and field programs, filed to appeal the decision last year, arguing that the CIAC policy had deprived them of the “chance to be champions.”
On Friday, the three-judge panel ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims were unfounded because, “on numerous occasions,” they had placed first in various track and field events, even while competing against Miller and Yearwood.
“Plaintiffs simply have not been deprived of a ‘chance to be champions,’” the panel wrote.