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2nd Circuit allows lawsuit of CT female athletes to continue

Four women consistently deprived of honors, medals by male athletes can proceed with their case, appeals court says
ADF female athlete clients Alanna Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Selina Soule

NEW YORK – The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reinstated the case of four female athletes deprived of honors and opportunities at elite track-and-field levels by male athletes permitted to compete against them. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the athletes—Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti—who suffered the defeats because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference adopted a policy that allows males who identify as female to compete in girls’ athletic events.

The 2nd Circuit ruling revives the lawsuit, Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, and allows the case to proceed in federal district court. There, the female athletes will seek a merits ruling in favor of fairness and equal opportunities for female athletes under Title IX.

“Selina, Chelsea, Alanna, and Ashley—like all female athletes—deserve access to fair competition. The CIAC’s policy degraded each of their accomplishments and scarred their athletic records, irreparably harming each female athlete’s interest in accurate recognition of her athletic achievements,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks. “The en banc 2nd Circuit was right to allow these brave women to make their case under Title IX and set the record straight. This is imperative not only for the women who have been deprived of medals, potential scholarships, and other athletic opportunities, but for all female athletes across the country.”

All 15 members of the 2nd Circuit en banc panel agreed “unanimously” that, “Plaintiffs have plausibly stated an injury in fact:” “the alleged denial of equal athletic opportunity and concomitant loss of publicly recognized titles and placements during track and field competitions in which they participated against and finished behind” two males identifying as females. The court further concluded “that the alleged injury is plausibly redressable by monetary and injunctive relief.” Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

Starting in 2017, two male athletes began competing in Connecticut girls’ high school track. In just three years, those two males broke 17 girls’ track meet records, deprived girls of more than 85 opportunities to advance to the next level of competition and took 15 women’s state track championship titles. Four of those championship titles were earned by ADF client Chelsea Mitchell. Four times she was the fastest female in a women’s state championship race, and four times she watched that title, honor, and recognition go to a male athlete instead. Over the course of her high school career, Mitchell lost to these males more than 20 times. The other female athletes represented in this case all likewise have been denied medals, placements, or advancement opportunities because of the male athletes competing on their teams.

A broad coalition of athletes, Olympians, coaches, sports officials, 23 states, and several athletic and advocacy organizations rallied in support of the female athletes and their rights under Title IX by filing 12 friend-of-the-court briefs with the 2nd Circuit.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Roger G. Brooks
Roger G. Brooks
Senior Counsel
Roger G. Brooks serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives.