A group of Connecticut high school athletes filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to prevent transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports.
The Associated Press reported that the Alliance Defending Freedom is representing three track and field athletes – Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell and Alanna Smith – that believe that biologically male athletes have prevented them from winning track titles and earning scholarships.
“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” said Smith, who is a sophomore at Danbury High School and the daughter of former Major League pitcher Lee Smith. “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.”
The road to Wednesday’s lawsuit began when transgender seniors Terry Miller, of Bloomfield High School, and Andraya Yearwood, of Cromwell High School, began winning state championships in 2017. The duo has combined to win 15 indoor and outdoor state titles in Connecticut, which has a policy allowing student-athletes to compete in the sports that match their gender identity.
“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,” attorney Christiana Holcomb said. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
“Our dream is not to come in second or third place, but win fair and square,” added Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School. “All we’re asking for is a chance.”
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“When boys compete in girls’ sports, they win because they have a natural advantage,” the petition says. “It’s scientifically proven, and it’s also common sense. This crushes the motivation of the biological girls who have worked hard to compete on a level playing field, only to enter into competitions which they can never win, despite all of their efforts. It also puts girls into harm’s way in contact sports, and it deprives female athletes of their right to fairly compete for college scholarships and other accolades.”
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The petition reached the 150,000-signature mark in December, while Wednesday’s lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the boards of education in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton and Danbury.
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Miller and Yearwood both released statements defending their right to compete in girls’ athletics.
“I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller said. “I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community, and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”
“I will never stop being me!” Yearwood said. “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!”
According to Transathlete.com, 17 states allowed transgender athletes to compete without restrictions in 2019. Eight states have restrictions, requiring athletes to compete as the gender on their birth certificate or to go through sex reassignment procedures before competing against the gender they identify with.
A number of states, including Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Washington, have introduced bills that would prohibit transgender athletes.
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Idaho joined the debate this week, according to the Post Register. Idaho Falls Republican Barbara Ehardt introduced a bill that would prevent transgender girls from playing on girls’ teams at the high school and college level.
“This bill is truly all about continuing opportunities, not taking away opportunities,” said Ehardt, who played college basketball at North Idaho College and Idaho State University before spending 15 years as a college coach at UC Santa Barbara, BYU, Washington State and Cal State Fullerton. “It’s helped me with leadership, with confidence, with conflict resolution. Sports has done so much for me, and I see what it’s done for our counterparts.”
The bill, which Ehardt drafted while working with the Alliance Defending Freedom, would require schools to designate teams as male, female or coed. The bill says a debate would lead to a physician’s statement based on the athletes’ external genitalia, amount of natural testosterone and a genetic analysis.
“There are a number of states that are trying to introduce these anti-trans bills,” said Assistant Minority Leader Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City. It’s very disheartening again, to try to take their humanity.”
“We have come a long ways from those early days of women’s sports, and this issue that Rep. Ehart has raised it not one down on the list, it’s one of absolute significant importance that girls can grow up knowing they can compete with other girls in sports,” said Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls.