High-school athletes file suit to protect fairness in girls’ sports
HARTFORD, Conn. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing three female high-school track competitors and their mothers filed suit in federal court Wednesday to challenge Connecticut’s policy of allowing males to compete in girls’ sports—a policy that robs female athletes of opportunities because of the physical advantages of males.
Ever since the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference adopted a policy that allows males who identify as female to compete in girls’ athletic events, boys have consistently deprived Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell 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 and Smith likewise have been denied medals and/or advancement opportunities.
“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Having separate boys’ and girls’ sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition. And forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics. Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
The CIAC policy regularly results in boys out-performing and displacing girls in competitive high-school track events across Connecticut, depriving female athletes of victories, opportunities to compete at a higher level, and the public recognition critical to college recruiting and scholarship opportunities.
The complaint filed in Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut explains that CIAC’s new policy and others like it pose a concrete threat to Title IX gains because “inescapable biological facts of the human species [are] not stereotypes, ‘social constructs,’ or relics of past discrimination. As a result of these many inherent physiological differences between men and women after puberty, male athletes consistently achieve records 10-20% higher than comparably fit and trained women across almost all athletic events, with even wider consistent disparities in long-term endurance events and contests of sheer strength such as weight-lifting.”
“In track-and-field events that do not use equipment, the physiological differences between males and females after puberty are stark in the record books,” the complaint adds. “No one doubts that top male and female high school athletes are equally committed to excelling in their sport, and train equally hard. Yet boys and men consistently run faster and jump higher and farther than girls and women.”
As a result of 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.
“In sum, the real-world result of the CIAC Policy is that in Connecticut interscholastic track competitions, while highly competitive girls are experiencing the no doubt character-building ‘agony of defeat,’ they are systematically being deprived of a fair and equal opportunity to experience the ‘thrill of victory,’” the lawsuit notes. “A transgender athlete advocate recently wrote in an op-ed that this should be accepted because part of competitive sports is ‘learning to lose.’ A policy such as the CIAC Policy that ensures that girls get extra lessons in losing, however, cannot be reconciled with Title IX.”
“Girls deserve the same opportunity as boys to excel and chase their dreams. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports shatters those dreams and steals opportunities,” said ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner. “Boys have physical advantages over girls. It’s dispiriting to girls competing against boys to know what the outcome likely is before the race even starts. The government shouldn’t rob these girls of the opportunity not only to win, but to earn college scholarships and launch their own careers in athletics, coaching, and more.”
ADF attorneys are also asking the court to halt enforcement of the CIAC’s policy while the lawsuit moves forward. Howard M. Wood III, one of more than 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case on behalf of the female athletes and their mothers.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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