Judge hears arguments in lawsuit over transgender athletes

Judge hears arguments in lawsuit over transgender athletes

Lawyers for several school districts and the organization that oversees high school sports in Connecticut went before a federal judge Friday seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit that would prevent transgender girls in the state from competing in girls’ sports.

The lawsuit was filed a year ago by several cisgender runners who argue they have been deprived of wins, state titles and athletic opportunities by a state policy that allowed two transgender sprinters to compete against them.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Council has said its policy is designed to comply with a state law that requires all high school students be treated according to their gender identity.

The arguments conducted during a video conference hearing Friday centered around Title IX, the federal law that requires equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including sports.

Defense attorney Joshua Block argued the CIAC policy doesn’t deny any girl a meaningful opportunity to participate in sports, but that overturning it would violate the Title IX rights of transgender girls.

“No court, no agency has ever defined a participation opportunity as winning an equal number of trophies,” he argued. “The plaintiffs in this case are accomplished athletes who have gained a great deal from the athletic opportunities offered them and they’ve won national acclaim from that, but there’s room enough on the podium for everyone. And accommodating the interests of these particular athletes doesn’t require schools to shove aside girls who are transgender and deny them participation opportunities too.”

The plaintiffs argue that the rights of cisgender girls under Title IX are being violated in Connecticut by being forced to compete against what they term “biological males.”

Plaintiff attorney Roger Brooks, from the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the law guarantees girls “equal quality” of competition, which he said is denied by having to race people with what he described as inherent physiological advantages.

“Participation isn’t enough. Meaningful experience isn’t enough,” he said. “Title IX guarantees our daughters equal chances to be champions.”

The Trump administration’s Justice Department and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights had sided with the plaintiffs. But the Biden administration withdrew that support earlier this week.

The Trump administration’s intervention in the case last year came as state legislatures around the country debated restricting transgender athletes’ participation to their gender assigned at birth. Seventeen states considered such legislation, and Idaho passed a law. The Republican-controlled Mississippi legislature overwhelmingly approved a similar bill earlier this month.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny said he expects to issue a ruling on a motion to dismiss the Connecticut lawsuit in two or three weeks.

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