Ruling leaves female athletes unprotected
A judge minimizes the effect of transgender participation in women’s sports
At age 16, Alanna Smith, competed in a regional track and field competition in which she took third place. A boy who identified as a girl won first place.
“It was really upsetting,” Smith said in 2020. “We all already knew who was going to win and take the top spots before we even started.”
Smith and three other high school girls sued the Connecticut Association of Schools last year for forcing them to compete against boys in girls events. On Sunday, a federal judge ruled their case was moot because the male competitors who swept numerous track meets, Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, have since graduated. Christiana Holcomb of Alliance Defending Freedom, the nonprofit law firm representing the four girls, said they will appeal the decision.
“The court essentially came back and said, your losses and your achievements mean nothing,” Holcomb said. She called the ruling a slap in the face to women.
Between 2017 and 2019, Yearwood and Miller won 15 women’s track championship titles once held by nine different girls. Girls in Connecticut lost more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher levels of competition such as state and regional meets.
Two of the four girls suing the state’s athletic governing body have since graduated from high school. U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny said that since no other boys are currently seeking to compete in girl’s track and field events, the two remaining plaintiffs—Smith and Ashley Nicoletti of Immaculate High School—no longer need the court’s protection. He said the case relies on “speculative contingencies.”
Chatigny previously ordered ADF attorneys to stop using the term “biological male” when referring to Yearwood and Miller. Instead, he said they must call them “transgender females.” Holcomb said the order spoke volumes about the court’s unwillingness to protect her clients’ Title IX rights. Title IX is a federal law that requires equal opportunities for women in education.
“It only takes one biologically male athlete to push a young woman off the championship spot,” Holcomb argues. “It only takes three to eliminate biological females from the podium altogether.”
At least 30 states have been considering laws to protect female athletes from losing titles, championships, and scholarship opportunities to boys who identify as girls. This week, Republican governors in West Virginia and Alabama signed measures to protect girls and women’s sports, joining Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Idaho, where similar laws have passed.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said signing the measure into law was “the right thing” despite warnings of retaliation from the NCAA. The college sports governing body indicated in an April 12 statement that it will only hold tournaments and championship games in states that allow men who identify as women to compete on women’s teams.
Meanwhile, Smith said she will continue to fight for fairness in her sport. “Biological unfairness does not go away because of what someone believes about gender identity,” she said. “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.”
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