Federal judge tosses lawsuit that sought to block transgender athletes

The ruling comes as 20 states, including Florida, have introduced bills to ban or limit transgender athletes from competition.
A transgender flag flies during the St. Pete Pride parade in 2018.
A transgender flag flies during the St. Pete Pride parade in 2018. [ TAILYR IRVINE | Times ]
Published April 25, 2021|Updated April 25, 2021

HARTFORD, Conn. — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls high school sports in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which oversees scholastic sports in the state, allows high school athletes to compete in sports according to their gender identity. The lawsuit was filed a year ago by cisgender runners who argued they were deprived of wins, state titles and athletic opportunities by being forced to compete against two transgender sprinters.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, saying in the ruling released Sunday that there was no dispute to resolve because the two transgender athletes have graduated and the plaintiffs could not identify other female transgender athletes, the Hartford Courant reported.

The lawsuit had been closely watched since the Trump administration’s Justice Department and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights had sided with the plaintiffs. But the Biden administration withdrew that support in February.

Conservative lawmakers in more than 20 states have introduced legislation to ban or limit transgender athletes from competing on teams or sports that align with their gender identity. Laws banning transgender women and girls from participating in organized sports have been signed in Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.

In Florida, a bill banning transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports passed the state House, only to stumble in the Senate last week, making it unlikely to become law this year.

Related: Florida transgender sports bill might have just died in the Florida Senate

Arguments in the Connecticut lawsuit centered around Title IX, the federal law that requires equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including sports.

Defense attorney Joshua Block argued the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy doesn’t deny any girl a meaningful opportunity to participate in sports, but that overturning it would violate the Title IX rights of transgender girls.

“No court, no agency has ever defined a participation opportunity as winning an equal number of trophies,” he argued.

Related: As Florida lawmakers took aim at transgender athletes, old wounds reopened

The plaintiffs argue that the rights of cisgender girls under Title IX are being violated in Connecticut by being forced to compete against what they term “biological males.”

Plaintiff attorney Roger Brooks, from the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the law guarantees girls “equal quality” of competition, which he said is denied by having to race people with what he described as inherent physiological advantages.

The Alliance Defending Freedom said on Sunday that it will appeal the dismissal of the lawsuit.