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Athletes will appeal ruling that allows CT athletic association to abolish girls-only sports

Court dismisses lawsuit of high school female athletes forced to compete against biological males
Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, Fairness in Women's Sports

HARTFORD, Conn. – Four Connecticut female athletes will appeal a federal district court ruling issued Sunday that dismisses their legal challenge to a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy allowing biological males who identify as female to compete in girls’ athletic events.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the athletes in Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools will continue to challenge the policy before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Since 2017, boys have consistently deprived Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti of honors and opportunities to compete at elite levels. Mitchell, for example, would have won the 2019 state championship in the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition, but because two males took first and second place, she was denied the gold medal. Soule, Smith, and Nicoletti likewise have been denied medals and/or advancement opportunities.

“Our clients—like all female athletes—deserve access to fair competition; that means authentically equal opportunities to compete, achieve, and win. But competition is no longer fair when males are permitted to compete in girls’ sports,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Kiefer. “Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls; that’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place. Unfortunately, this court has chosen to ignore our clients’ demoralizing experiences of losing to male runners. But these committed female athletes—and young women across the country—deserve better. Today, the conversation centers on Connecticut’s high school track and field program, but there’s something bigger at stake here: Girls and women deserve opportunities that are truly equal—without being sidelined or dominated by males choosing to join their sport.”

“It’s discouraging that the court ruled to dismiss my right to compete on a level playing field,” runner Chelsea Mitchell, one of the athletes ADF represents, said. “Today’s ruling ignores the physical advantages that male athletes have over female athletes. Female athletes like me should have the opportunity to excel and compete fairly. No girl should have to settle into her starting blocks knowing that, no matter how hard she works, she doesn’t have a fair shot at victory.”

“When I raced against male athletes, I knew that, even if I ran my best, I could only finish second in my heat, and third overall,” added another of the athletes, Ashley Nicoletti. “Girls like me have suffered countless losses because of the CIAC’s policy, and today’s ruling ignores this fact. I will continue to tell my story and fight for fairness in women’s sports.”

“Today’s decision is disheartening for athletes like me who train hard every day to be our physical and mental best at the starting block,” said a third athlete, Alanna Smith. “Biological unfairness does not go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. Biology—not identity—is what matters on the field, and that’s why I will continue to stand up to restore fairness to my sport.”

“Today’s decision ignores the unfairness of the CIAC’s policy, which allows biological males who identify as female to compete in the girls’ category,” noted a fourth athlete, Selina Soule. “During all four years of high school, I worked incredibly hard to shave fractions of a second off of my time, only to lose to athletes who had an unfair physical advantage. I don’t want any other girl to experience the pain and heartbreak I had to go through, and I will continue to stand up for fairness in women’s sports for as long as it takes.”

As a result of the CIAC’s policy, two males were permitted to compete in girls’ athletic competitions beginning in the 2017 track season. Between them, they have taken 15 women’s state championship titles (titles held in 2016 by nine different Connecticut girls) and have taken more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher level competitions from female track athletes in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons alone.

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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Christiana Kiefer
Senior Counsel
Christiana (Holcomb) Kiefer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives.