The families of 3 high school cross-country runners are attempting to stop transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports in Connecticut by filing a federal lawsuit a day before the start of the state’s indoor track championships.
Students Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, and Alanna Smith claim that allowing students with male anatomy to participate in sports against female-born athletes hinders their competitive opportunities. The lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which require that students be treated according to the gender with which they identify, in keeping with the state’s anti-discrimination law and with local boards of education for Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton, and Danbury.
“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” Smith told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.” Smith is the daughter of former Major League pitcher Lee Smith.
Soule, Mitchell, and Smith are represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative faith-based organization. “Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics,” ADF counsel Christiana Holcomb said. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
One year ago, the group filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of Soule and two more students whose names were not disclosed at the time, explaining that transgender girls had repeatedly won competitive races and that Title IX policy violated federal protections for female athletes.
The plaintiffs have placed behind two transgender sprinters in more than a dozen statewide races since 2017, with Mitchell finishing third in a state track competition last year. “Our dream is not to come in second or third place but to win fair and square,” Mitchell said. “All we’re asking for is a fair chance.”
The suit is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which claims that the measure is “a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life.”
Transgender female runner Cece Telfer has argued that the reverse is true, dismissing the claims that her male anatomy provides her with an advantage against female-born runners and attributing a handicap to her performance incurred through her medical transition.