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Connecticut lawsuit against transgender girls competing in women's athletics is dismissed

Competing as a freshman for Cromwell High School in 2017, Andraya Yearwood won the 200 meter dash during her first track meet as a transgender female.
Mark Mirko
The Hartford Courant
Competing as a freshman for Cromwell High School in 2017, Andraya Yearwood won the 200-meter dash during her first track meet as a transgender female.

A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a challenge to Connecticut's policy of allowing transgender girls to compete in girls high school sports, rejecting arguments by four cisgender runners who said they were unfairly forced to race against transgender athletes.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled in favor of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), the state’s governing body for high school sports, and several local school districts sued by the cisgender girls and their families.

The court found the lawsuit moot and ruled that the cisgender girls lacked standing to sue, in part because their claims were speculative that they were deprived of wins, state titles and athletic scholarship opportunities. The court also noted that the cisgender girls won races in which a transgender athlete competed.

“All four Plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where Plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events,” the decision said. “And, on numerous occasions, Plaintiffs were indeed ‘champions,’ finishing first in various events, even sometimes when competing against (transgender athletes).”

The CIAC argued that its policy is designed to comply with a state law that all high school students be treated according to their gender identity. It also said the policy is in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.

In February 2020, the cisgender girls filed a lawsuit arguing that the presence of transgender girls in female athletics violated Title IX. But last year, a Connecticut district court dismissed the case. Then the plaintiffs appealed to the 2nd Circuit.

In a statement, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the four Connecticut cisgender athletes, said it is evaluating its legal options. That could include asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Friday decision upholding the lower court judge's dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the CIAC’s policy.

“The 2nd Circuit got it wrong, and we’re evaluating all legal options, including appeal, said Christiana Kiefer, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom. "Our clients — like all female athletes — deserve access to fair competition."

The American Civil Liberties Union defended the two transgender athletes at the center of the lawsuit — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood.

“In this time when trans people, and particularly trans kids, are facing these relentless attacks, it’s a very welcome win,” said Elana Bildner, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Connecticut. “It’s a very welcome affirmation of our clients’ rights to belong. And I really hope it ensures that no student is denied opportunities because of who they are. That’s the crux of this case.”

The issue of transgender athletes in Connecticut has gotten national attention. In 2020, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said she would withhold federal funds from school districts in Connecticut that allowed transgender athletes to play. The Biden administration later withdrew government support of the Connecticut lawsuit.

At least 12 Republican-led states have passed laws banning transgender women or girls in sports based on the premise that it gives them an unfair competitive advantage.

Transgender rights advocates counter that such laws aren’t just about sports but are another way to demean and attack transgender youth.

During the 2022 election in Connecticut, several Republican candidates also brought up the issue of transgender student-athletes during their unsuccessful campaigns.

All the athletes have since graduated from high school.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Updated: December 16, 2022 at 4:41 PM EST
This story has been updated.
Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.
Frankie Graziano is the host of 'The Wheelhouse,' focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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