By Dirk Smith, MSc, SDL (He/Him)
Last year a lawsuit was filed by several cisgender athletes from a Connecticut high school who argue that they were deprived of wins, titles and scholarship opportunities after two transgender sprinters were allowed to compete in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference in accordance with state law. The initial lawsuit seeks to ban transgender athletes from participating in any and all girls’ high school sports and was openly supported by the Trump administration, specifically by Betsy Devos’ Department of Education who tried to cut off federal funding to certain school districts who continued following state law that allowed trans athletes to participate.
However, the Biden administration has made an abrupt and welcome shift by withdrawing the support of the federal government from the lawsuit ahead of a case hearing based on a motion to potentially dismiss the suit. The withdrawal comes at a time when transgender athletes participating in sports has become a heated topic of debate, despite their being absolutely no valid evidence that transgender athletes have any kind of “unfair advantage” nor any evidence of wins, titles or scholarship opportunities lost as a result of trans athletes participating in sports.
Seventeen state legislatures have been debating bills introduced by conservatives seeking to restrict or bans the eligibility of high school students who identify as transgender from participating in high school sports that align with their gender identity. Last year, then-Attorney General William Barr signed a statement of interest in the Connecticut lawsuit and argued that the policy violates Title IX. This statement was withdrawn by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham and stated that “the government has reconsidered the matter” which dealt a blow to the plaintiffs of the lawsuit.
On President Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports, making a clear statement where his administration stands on trans athletes participating in high school sports. The withdrawal from the lawsuit is another clear statement which, according to ACLU lawyer Dan Barrett who is representing the defendants in the lawsuit, “a hint that the government, the Department of Education, may now have a different view of title IX.”
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong stated that he was pleased with the decision to withdraw Barr’s statement and added “Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period.”