3 Connecticut high schoolers sue to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls' sports
By natacha larnaud
/ CBS News
The families of three high school girls who run track and field in Connecticut are suing in an attempt to bar transgender students from competing in girls' sports.
The three student-athletes — Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Selina Soule — filed the suit in federal court Wednesday to challenge the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's policy of allowing transgender athletes to participate.
According to Christiana Holcomb, the attorney representing the girls, Connecticut's policy "robs female athletes of opportunities because of the physical advantages of males" and "deprived female athletes of honors and opportunities to compete at elite levels."
The suit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the boards of education in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton and Danbury, the Associated Press reports. It argues that the policy "directly violates the requirements of Title IX," a federal regulation designed to protect equal educational opportunities for women and girls.
"Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys isn't fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities," Holcomb said at a news conference, CBS affiliate WFSB reports. "And 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."
The lawsuit follows a Title IX complaint filed last June by the girls' families and the Alliance Defending Freedom against the state's policy on transgender student-athletes.
One of the plaintiffs, Alanna Smith, explained at a news conference why she thinks the policy is unfair. "Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts," she said. "That biological unfairness doesn't go away because of what someone believes about gender identity."
However, the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference says its policy is "appropriate under both state and federal law" and follows a state anti-discrimination law.
Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, both high school seniors, are the transgender student-athletes at the center of the suit, who combined have won 15 state titles in different events.
The three plaintiffs have competed directly against them, almost always losing to Miller and usually behind Yearwood, the AP reports. Mitchell finished third in the 2019 state championship in the girls 55-meter indoor track competition behind Miller and Yearwood.
"There is a long history of excluding Black girls from sport and policing our bodies," Miller said in a statement. "I am a runner and I will keep running and keep fighting for my existence, my community and my rights."
Yearwood also defended her right to run in girls events: "I have known two things for most of my life: I am a girl and I love to run. There is no shortage of discrimination that I face as a young Black woman who is transgender."
Yearwood added in her statement: "I will never stop running! I hope that the next generation of trans youth doesn't have to fight the fights that I have. I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed not demonized. For the next generation, I run for you!"
The American Civil Liberties Union, which said it will represent the transgender teens and defend the Connecticut policy in court, tweeted in support of the athletes.
"This lawsuit is clearly about trans students, yet those students have no voice in the lawsuit. This is wrong. We at the ACLU will be seeking to intervene in this lawsuit as a new party, to give trans students a voice," the group said.
Connecticut is one of 17 states that allowed transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions as of 2019, but several states are considering legislation to change that policy. A bill that would have banned the practice in Alabama failed to pass in the state House earlier today, CBS Birmingham affiliate WIAT reports.
– The Associated Press contributed reporting.
First published on February 13, 2020 / 12:58 PM
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