Four female athletes who sued over a Connecticut transgender sports policy lost their case in federal court on Friday.
A three-judge panel on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to throw out the girls’ case, which was seeking to scrap a policy that allows biological males to compete on girls’ sports teams in Connecticut.
The four track athletes, Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, Ashley Nicoletti, and their mothers had argued in their suit that Connecticut’s high school sports authority’s policy allowing transgender students to compete on girls’ teams disadvantages female athletes and has caused them to lose out on opportunities and awards.
They had asked the court for an injunction to erase the victories of two biological male transgender athletes, who broke 17 girls’ track records and snagged 15 women’s state track championship titles.
In 2019, two transgender athletes finished ahead of Soule, causing her to miss out on qualifying for finals and the opportunity to compete before college scouts. Mitchell has missed out on the state champion title four different times because she finished behind transgender athletes.
However, the judges were not convinced.
“Like the district court, we are unpersuaded, with respect to the claim for an injunction to alter the records, that Plaintiffs have established the injury in fact and redressability requirements for standing; both fail for reasons of speculation,” the judges wrote.
The judges said that because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports, “did not have adequate notice that the Policy violates Title IX — indeed, they had notice to the contrary — Plaintiffs’ claims for damages must be dismissed.”
The judges also referred to the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision ruling that the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity as well as sex.
“Thus, it cannot be said that the Policy – which prohibits discrimination based on a student’s transgender status by allowing all students to participate on gender specific teams consistent with their gender identity – ‘falls within the scope of Title IX’s proscriptions,’” the judges wrote.
The girls were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which argued their case before the 2nd Circuit in September. The group’s attorneys said they were looking at all their options after Friday’s defeat.
“The 2nd Circuit got it wrong, and we’re evaluating all legal options, including appeal,” ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer said. “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.”
Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) celebrated the victory.
“The court rejected the baseless zero-sum arguments presented by the opposition to this policy and ultimately found transgender girls have as much a right to play as cisgender girls under Title IX,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “This critical victory strikes at the heart of political attacks against transgender youth while helping ensure every young person has the right to play.”
Women’s and girls’ sports have remained a battleground for the transgender issue across the country. At least 18 states now have legislation that aims to bar biological males from competing on girls and women’s sports teams.