The lawsuit argues that the state's policy on allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls' sports is a direct violation of Title IX

By Rachel DeSantis
February 13, 2020 03:15 PM
(L-R) Alanna Smith, Chelsea Mitchell and Selina Soule
Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty

Three Connecticut high school students have filed a federal lawsuit looking to bar transgender athletes from participating in girls’ track and field competitions, alleging that athletes who were identified as male at birth have an unfair advantage.

The families of Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School, filed the lawsuit on Wednesday with help from the conservative nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom.

In the suit, the trio argues that the state’s “discriminatory” policy allowing transgender students to compete in girls’ sports has deprived them of various opportunities and championship titles.

Mitchell came in third behind two transgender athletes in the 2019 state championship in the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition, the suit claims as an example.

The suit alleges that letting students born with male anatomy compete in such events is a direct violation of Title IX, which mandates equal opportunity for both sexes.

(L-R) Alanna Smith, Selina Soule and Chelsea Mitchell
Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty

Transgender students competing against students born with female genitalia have “inherent and biologically dictated differences” that give them a leg up on the competition, as “male athletes consistently achieve records 10-20 percent higher than comparably fit and trained women across almost all athletic events,” the suit argues.

“To American girls — those born with XX chromosomes — the message is, ‘Give up. You can’t win,’ ” it claims.

The lawsuit repeatedly cites the cases of two different transgender Connecticut athletes who began competing in girls’ athletic competitions in 2017.

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The suit claims that between the two student-athletes, they have won 15 women’s state championship titles — titles that in 2016 were won by nine different girls across the state.

The young athletes behind the suit, which was announced at a Hartford press conference on Wednesday, claim that competing against the transgender students has left them with stress, anxiety and depression.

“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts. That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field,” said Smith, the daughter of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Lee Smith, according to the Associated Press.

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Soule, meanwhile, said in a pre-taped video that she’s lost opportunities to win titles and compete in front of college coaches and gain attention.

“I’m just trying to bring back fairness to my sport and trying to make sure that young girls won’t be in the same situation that I have been and feel the same pain that I have felt,” she said.

The suit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) and the boards of education in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton and Danbury.

In a statement, CIAC said that it first adopted its transgender participation policy in 2013 after consulting with numerous organizations, including the Office for Civil Rights.

“The CIAC believes that its current policy is appropriate under both state and federal law, and it has been defending that policy in the complaint that was filed previously with the Office of Civil Rights,” the statement reads. “Although OCR’s investigation is still pending, the CIAC is aware that a lawsuit has now also been filed in federal court. The CIAC will respond to that lawsuit after we have a chance to review it further.”

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Neither Bloomfield, Cromwell, Canton nor Danbury boards of education immediately responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment on the lawsuit, which comes following a similar complaint filed in June. A spokesman for Glastonbury declined to comment “given the pending litigation.”

Meanwhile, ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said in a statement that the suit was a means of allowing girls to compete “on a level playing field.”

“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,” she said. “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.”