US Justice Department: CT Schools Shouldn't Let Trans Athletes Compete as Girls

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2020

Attorney General William Barr speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The United States Justice Department has weighed in on a federal lawsuit regarding transgender athletes in Connecticut interscholastic sports, offering a statement of interest that argues against treating transgender athletes as girls.

Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department issued the following statement, per Pat Eaton-Robb of the Associated Press:

"Under [the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's] interpretation of Title IX, however, schools may not account for the real physiological differences between men and women. Instead, schools must have certain biological males—namely, those who publicly identify as female—compete against biological females. In so doing, CIAC deprives those women of the single-sex athletic competitions that are one of the marquee accomplishments of Title IX."

The CIAC has argued that by treating transgender athletes as girls it is "following a state law that requires high school students be treated according to their gender identity" and is complying with Title IX, "the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics," per Eaton-Robb.

The lawsuit was filed by the families of three female Connecticut track-and-field athletes—Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell and Alanna Smith. They have claimed that transgender girls competing against them have cost them various achievements, including wins or state titles. 

"Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls—that's the reason we have girls sports in the first place," their attorney, Christiana Holcomb, argued. "And a male's belief about his gender doesn't eliminate those advantages."

If the lawsuit is successful, it could erase wins by transgender girls like Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller from the state record books and set a precedent for other cases across the country.

"Andraya and Terry should not be forced to watch on the sidelines while [the families of Soule, Mitchell and Smith] attempt to bar them from participating in the 2020 spring track and field season and expunge all record of their past accomplishments," Thania Edwards, the mother of Yearwood and Miller, said in a court filing, per Dan Brechlin of the Hartford Courant.

The filing added: "Andraya and Terry have both excelled in track and field but, contrary to the allegations by Plaintiffs, their successes have been a result of hard work and are well within the range of high school track times for non-transgender girls."

Chase Strangio, the ACLU attorney for Miller and Yearwood, told Dave Zirin of The Nation that the lawsuit "is both completely inconsistent with prevailing law and a logical extension of the many attacks on trans existence that we have seen from [the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative think tank] across the country."

"ADF and its clients are seeking from the court a decree that trans people do not and cannot belong," he added. "No court has ever accepted such a dangerous argument, and we will fight to ensure that they don’t and that trans youth remain protected under both state and federal law."

Connecticut is one of 17 states in the United States that permits transgender athletes to compete without restrictions, per Zirin, rather than forcing them to compete based on their birth sex. It remains a hotly contested issue both in the United States and globally. 

The International Olympic Committee is expected to update its own guidelines on transgender athletes after the Tokyo Olympics, which has been postponed until next year. 

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