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Lawsuit filed to block transgender runners from racing in girls’ competitions

Three high school runners are suing the governing body of athletics in Connecticut

Three high school runners and their families have filed a lawsuit in Connecticut in an attempt to block transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports.

The runners, Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell and Alanna Smith, are suing the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) and boards of education in five Connecticut towns. They are working with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative not-for-profit organization based in the U.S.

In 2017, the CIAC changed its policy on transgender athletes. The policy states that, “for purposes of sports participation, the CIAC shall defer to the determination of the student and his or her local school regarding gender identification.”

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Soule, Mitchell and Smith claim that this policy has hurt their chances of winning track titles and receiving scholarship opportunities from collegiate athletics programs.

“Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities,” attorney Christiana Holcomb said in a news release. Holcomb went on to say that the policy effectively “forces girls to be spectators in their own sports,” which defies Title IX, a federal law which was enacted to create equal opportunities for women in both education and athletics.

“Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women,” Holcomb said.

The lawsuit is not the first development in this case. Last year, the plaintiffs filed a complaint regarding the CIAC policy with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint is still under consideration.

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The initial complaint and subsequent lawsuit came about because of two transgender athletes, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. Soule, Mitchell and Smith have all lost to Miller and Yearwood on multiple occasions.

In a 2019 interview with the Associated Press, Yearwood said a number of factors go into a girl’s success in athletics, and that she doesn’t believe that she has an unfair edge.

“One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better,” she said. “One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement in response to the lawsuit, saying that it is “a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life.” ACLU also released statements made by both Yearwood and Miller.

“I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community, and meaning in my life,” Miller said. “It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”

“Every day I train hard — I work hard to succeed on the track, to support my teammates, and to make my community proud,” Yearwood said. “It is so painful that people not only want to tear down my successes, but take down the laws and policies that protect people like me.”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have requested that the court prevent transgender girls from competing for the duration of the lawsuit.

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