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 at 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 of high school sports, and several local school districts sued by the cisgender girls and their families.
The court found the lawsuit to be moot and ruled the girls who brought the suit 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 how the cisgender girls won races where 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 its policy is designed to comply with a state law that requires 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 plaintiffs appealed to the 2nd Circuit.
Roger Brooks, a lawyer from the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom who represented the four Connecticut cisgender athletes, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday. A message also was left for the alliance.
Friday’s decision upholds the lower court judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the CIAC’s policy.
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 ACLU of Connecticut Senior Staff Attorney Elana Bildner. “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 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.