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Connecticut Policy Denies Opportunities to Female Athletes

Four female athletes in Connecticut stood up to the unfair treatment of being forced to compete against males.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Alanna Smith, a track athlete from Connecticut, crouches on the track

In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, a civil rights law dedicated to securing equal educational opportunities for women.

Since its passage, Title IX has opened opportunities in both academics and athletics for innumerable girls and women. Roughly forty years after Title IX was passed, over 190,000 women were participating in college sports every year. Before that, fewer than 30,000 did.

But by ignoring the very real biological differences between men and women, a policy in Connecticut denies girls exactly what Title IX promised. It allows males who identify as female to compete in girls’ sports. But males have obvious physical advantages and have deprived girls in Connecticut repeatedly of championship titles and opportunities to advance to the next level of competition.

Thankfully, four female athletes are standing up to this unfair treatment. They’ve faced some setbacks, including a court decision dismissing their case. But they’re not backing down, and ADF appealed this ruling to ensure that our laws and policies reflect biological reality. When they don’t, it’s girls and women who most often suffer the consequences.

Read more about the case below.


Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Selina Soule are three of the Connecticut female athletes standing against unfair treatment.


Who are Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti?

Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti are high-performing track and field athletes. All four have spent years and hundreds—if not thousands—of hours training for the chance to be the very best, to be recognized as champions, and even to compete for college scholarships.

But the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has been allowing males to compete in the female category. This threatens the opportunities for female athletes to earn titles and even scholarships.

Take Chelsea Mitchell for example. Four times, Chelsea has been the fastest girl in a state championship race yet been sent home without a gold medal because she was beaten by a male. She’s also lost two all-New England awards to male athletes. And she’s not alone.

In 2019, Selina Soule finished just one place short of advancing to the final round of the Indoor Track and Field State Championships. Selina likely would’ve gone on to compete at regionals, but two males who identify as female competed against her, winning first and second place and setting state records. Instead of getting to compete in front of college scouts, Selina was relegated to the sidelines.

Alanna Smith also has a promising career ahead of her in track and field. In 2019, she won the 400-meter dash at the New England Regional Championships as a freshman. Later, however, Alanna came in third place to a male in the 200-meter dash, when she should have been recognized as runner-up. Alanna is a talented athlete, but if she is forced to continue competing against males, her opportunities will decrease.

Likewise, in 2019, as a freshman, Ashely Nicoletti placed ninth in a preliminary State Class race in which the top eight advance to the finals. She was beaten by two male athletes. Without this unfair competition, she would have placed seventh and advanced to the final State Class race, yet another opportunity lost for a female athlete.

The CIAC policy creates an unfair athletic environment for girls and threatens equal opportunities for female athletes across the state.


Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools

Title IX guarantees equal opportunity in girls’ sports. But the CIAC’s policy ignores the real physical differences between the sexes and makes it harder for girls to chase their athletic dreams. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit challenging this policy: after all, our laws and policies should reflect the biological reality that men and women are different, not ignore it.

Biologically, men have many physical advantages over women, including a greater muscle mass, greater bone density, higher lung capacity, and larger hearts. Regardless of how they identify, the reality of men’s inherent physiological strength means that no matter how hard a girl trains, she cannot compete at the same level as a comparably fit male.

In taking a stand with Selina, Alanna, Chelsea, and Ashley, ADF is ensuring that this reality is recognized and that these female athletes can compete on a level playing field.


What's at stake?

Unfortunately, Selina, Alanna, Chelsea, and Ashley aren’t the only girls in their state whose athletic opportunities have been unfairly taken away.

Since the CIAC adopted this policy, female athletes have repeatedly watched from the sidelines as males won medals and honors that otherwise would have been theirs. Now, males have taken 15 state titles that previously were held by nine different girls in Connecticut.

Men and women are biologically different. To ignore this fact in the arena of sports tips the whole playing field.

“Even before I get to the track, I already know that I’m not going to get first place, or maybe even second place,” Alanna says. “I know that no matter how hard I work, I won’t be able to have the top spot.” Selina, Chelsea, Alanna, and Ashley know that when they compete against males, the odds are stacked against them—and no amount of training can change that.


Case timeline

  • June 2019: ADF filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, asking it to investigate illegal discrimination against the Connecticut female athletes. That August, under the Trump Administration, the Office agreed to open an investigation into the CIAC.
  • February 2020: ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court against the CIAC.
  • March 2020: The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief supporting ADF’s position in the case, but in February 2021, under the new Biden administration, the Department of Education withdrew its support for these female athletes.
  • February 2021: The ACLU argued that this case should be dismissed and that these female athletes’ concern about fairness in women’s sports should be disregarded.
  • April 2021: Unfortunately, the court agreed with the ACLU and dismissed the case.
  • May 2021: ADF appealed this mistaken ruling to the U.S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
  • December 2022: A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled against allowing the case to move forward.
  • February 2023: The 2nd Circuit announced that the full court would rehear the case.
  • June 2023: ADF attorneys argued before the full 2nd Circuit.


The bottom line

Allowing males to participate in girls’ sports denies female athletes equal opportunities.

There are biological differences between men and women. And when the law ignores these differences, it’s women who are most often hurt. What we’re seeing in sports today is a perfect example of this.

Within just three years, over 85 chances to compete in elite athletic competitions were taken from girls across the state. Equality in women’s sports needs to be protected.


Learn more:

Hear Selina Soule and Alanna Smith describe their stories in their own words:

Hear Chelsea Mitchell discuss the importance of the Connecticut athletes’ case:

Laura Ingraham interviews Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell on Fox News:

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom

ADF team members contributed to the writing and publication of this article.