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Judge Dismisses Suit Against Connecticut's Pro-Trans Sports Policy

Andraya Yearwood
Andraya Yearwood photographed by Steve Remich/ACLU

The suit focused on two trans athletes, but they've now graduated, rendering the challenge moot, a federal judge ruled.

A federal judge in Connecticut has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the state's policy of allowing transgender girls to compete alongside cisgender girls in school sports.

The suit, filed in February 2020 in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, asserted that letting trans girls compete against their cis counterparts is a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education, including school sports.

It was brought by the parents of three cisgender female student athletes against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the school boards in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton, and Danbury. The parents were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has taken up many anti-LGBTQ+ causes, and the law firm of Fiorentino, Howard, and Petrone.

It focused on two trans student athletes who had won titles, Andraya Yearwood (pictured) and Terry Miller. They were allowed to join in the defense of Connecticut's inclusive policies and were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In the ruling issued Sunday, Judge Robert S. Chatigny said the challenge is moot because Yearwood and Miller had graduated and the plaintiffs could not identify other trans female athletes. He also noted, "Courts across the country have consistently held that Title IX requires schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity."

Bills to bar trans student athletes from competing under their gender identity have been introduced in numerous states across the nation and have passed in several. Backers of such legislation contend that they're trying to protect girls' sports from domination by trans athletes, and they argue that trans girls have an inherent and unfair advantage over cis girls (something disputed by activists and scientists). However, most of these politicians could not cite any instance of trans participation causing a problem in their state; Connecticut was the only one they could point to where trans girls had won a significant number of titles.

When Donald Trump was president, the Department of Justice submitted a "statement of interest" in the case, weighing in on the side of the parents who filed the suit and against trans inclusion. Under President Joe Biden, the DOJ withdrew this statement.

The ACLU welcomed the ruling. "This is good news for transgender students in Connecticut and around the country," said a statement released by Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project. "[Sunday's] ruling shows that allowing transgender students to fully participate in school -- including sports -- is consistent with existing federal law. This is yet another sign that lawmakers attacking trans youth in states around the country have no legal basis for their claims. When Andraya and Terry ran in high school, they belonged on the girls' teams because they are girls. They benefited from being on a team, working to better themselves and having an escape from the rest of their days -- the same things that anyone else benefits from when playing sports. We will continue to fight against these attacks on transgender youth wherever they come."

"Transgender youth, just like all other youth, belong in our schools and on our sports teams," added Elana Bildner, staff attorney for the ACLU of Connecticut. "Trans students' humanity, dignity, and ability to be full members of their school communities should never be up for debate. Connecticut's laws preventing discrimination against transgender people and its policies preventing discrimination against trans youth in school and sports are consistent with federal law. The dismissal of this meritless lawsuit is a victory for trans youth in Connecticut and across the country, and it would not have been possible without incredible bravery from Andraya and Terry, who have carried more on their shoulders as two Black trans youth than most adults face in a lifetime."

The ADF has vowed to appeal.

Bills to bar trans student athletes from competing under their gender identity have been part of a record number of anti-trans and more broadly anti-LGBTQ+ bills being considered in state legislatures this year. Such bills have been signed into law this year in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and most recently in Alabama. West Virginia's governor is expected to sign one, Montana's governor is considering whether to sign one, and executive orders to this effect have been issued by South Dakota's governor. The governors of Kansas and North Dakota have vetoed similar bills.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has warned it might not hold championships in states with anti-trans laws. Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David has called on the association to act now, as NCAA tournaments are scheduled to be held in Alabama and Tennessee in less than three weeks. "The only way forward to protect the people the NCAA works so hard to serve is by sanctioning the states fueling hate and violence against our community," David said in a Monday letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the group's board of governors.

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