Federal appeals court dismisses case brought by Connecticut high school girls to challenge inclusive sports policy | CNN Politics


A federal appeals court Friday threw out a case brought by four Connecticut high school girls who alleged that the state’s comprehensive sports policy violated their civil rights and denied them “the chance to be champions.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2020, has been pushed in recent years by state lawmakers and governors pushing to ban transgender sports, with Republicans citing plaintiffs’ claims because they sought to bar transgender girls and women from competing on teams that match. their sexual identity.

A federal district court judge dismissed the case in April 2021, saying the girls’ request to block the policy was moot because the transgender athletes named in the lawsuit graduated in 2020 and there was “no indication” that the plaintiffs would again compete against transgender people. state athletes. The district court also said the plaintiffs lacked the procedural threshold — known as standing — necessary to bring the case.

In its ruling Friday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, writing in a scathing 29-page ruling that the plaintiffs’ claim that Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy put them at a competitive disadvantage. Incorrect.

All four plaintiffs competed regularly in state track championships as high school athletes, where the plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in various events. On many occasions, the plaintiffs were already “champions”, finishing first in various events, sometimes even when competing v. (Andrea) Yearwood and (Terry) Miller,” the ruling reads, referring to the two transgender athletes who subsequently joined suit to defend the CIAC policy.

The plaintiffs were simply not denied ‘the chance to be champions,’ the commission wrote.

The Freedom Alliance, a conservative nonprofit representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement following the verdict that they were “evaluating all legal options, including appeal.”

“Our clients – like all athletes – deserve access to fair competition,” Christiana Kiefer, senior advisor to the group, said in the statement. “Every woman deserves the respect and dignity that comes with equal opportunity to excel and win in athletics, and the Abu Dhabi Football Forum remains committed to safeguarding the future of women’s sport.”

The plaintiffs argued that CIAC’s policy is a violation of Article IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. In the suit, they said the policy results in “boys displacing girls in competitive track events in Connecticut.”

But the court disagreed with the plaintiffs’ Title IX claim, citing, among other things, a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that said federal civil rights law protects LGBT workers.

“Title IX includes language similar to that in Title VII, and broadly prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex,” they wrote. “Thus, it cannot be argued that the policy—which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a student’s transgender status by allowing all students to participate in Gender groups consistent with their gender identity – fall within the scope of the prohibition of the ninth law.”

Although conservatives pushing for trans sports bans have argued that trans women and girls have physical advantages over women and girls in sports, a 2017 report found “no direct or consistent research” on any such advantage.

The Connecticut lawsuit was unique in that it represented a rare case in which an inclusive sports policy was challenged by cisgender athletes. The legal battles over the issue have been brought on largely by LGBTQ advocates, who in recent years have had some limited success fighting the ban, including last year when a federal judge temporarily blocked West Virginia’s enforcement of an anti-transgender sports ban.

“Today’s ruling is a decisive victory for justice, equality, and inclusion,” said Joshua Block, an ACLU attorney who defended Connecticut’s policy in court. “The court rejected the unsubstantiated zero-sum arguments put forward opposing this policy and ultimately found that transgender girls have the same right to play as cisgender girls under Title IX.”

In a statement to CNN, Block added that the ACLU hopes the decision “finally stops this issue and allows everyone involved to move on with their lives.”

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