Metro Weekly

Justice Department says Title IX should exclude transgender female athletes

DOJ has sided with a trio of cisgender girls suing to stop trans females from competing in women's sports

title ix, trans, transgender, athlete

Attorney General William Barr – Photo: U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Department of Justice has sided with a trio of student-athletes from Connecticut who sued the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and multiple school boards in the state for allowing transgender athletes to compete in high school sports based on their gender identity.

In a “statement of interest” filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, the Department of Justice has stated that it has a “significant interest” in ensuring that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is interpreted as applying only to cisgender females. 

The 1972 law, which prohibits various forms of discrimination “based on sex,” has been credited with expanding educational and athletic opportunities for women over several decades, due to its provisions requiring that females be provided opportunities equal to those extended to males, including with respect to participating in school athletic programs.

The three student-athletes from Connecticut — all track-and-field stars — and their lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom have alleged in their lawsuit that allowing transgender females to compete in women’s sporting events gives trans student-athletes unfair physiological advantages.

As a result, they argue, cisgender females are denied opportunities to win honors and awards, qualify for regional and national meets, and potentially earn athletic scholarships to colleges.

It is on this point that the Department of Justice sides with the Connecticut athletes, saying that Title IX must be interpreted in a way that bars transgender females — whom it repeatedly refers to as “biological males” — from competing in women’s sports on the grounds that their presence deprives cisgender females of the “opportunity to compete on equal athletic footing.”

“In our pluralistic society we generally try to accommodate how individuals desire to live their lives up to the point where those desires impinge on the other people’s rights,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “Allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports deprives women of the opportunity to participate fully and fairly in sports and is fundamentally unfair to female athletes.

“The purpose of all-female athletics is to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to participate, compete and excel in this important part of life,” Barr added. “Title IX has been a major step forward in the long fight to achieve this equality…. Clearly then, eligibility to participate on a single-sex team must be based on objective biological fact. Girls should not be forced, through the dismantling of Title IX, to be sidelined in their own sports.”

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference as argued that its seven-year-old policy allowing transgender people to compete in sports based on their gender identity conforms with Connecticut’s civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people on the basis of their gender identity or expression.

See also: Idaho lawmakers ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports

However, just eight days after filing the lawsuit, Chelsea Mitchell, one of the athletes bringing the lawsuit, beat transgender runner Terry Miller, of Bloomfield High School, three times: at the Connecticut State Class S indoor track meet, the state open, and the New England Championships.

Yet Mitchell’s lawyers insist their lawsuit still has merit, because — they argue — even if Miller lost to Mitchell, she denied opportunities to other cisgender individuals.

“What Plaintiffs alleged — and what is true — is that due to physiological differences, female athletes cannot beat ‘comparably talented and trained’ males,” ADF attorney Christiana Holcomb told the Associated Press. “And if Chelsea beat Miller by a hair in a particular race, Miller nevertheless deprived one girl of the second-place title in that race, and pushed the third-fastest girl off the victory podium entirely.”

Chase Strangio, the deputy director for Trans Justice with American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT and HIV Project, which has been outspoken in its defense of Miller and fellow transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood — whose successes were enumerated in the lawsuit as “evidence” of opportunities denied to cisgender girls — blasted Barr on Twitter for backing the lawsuit.

“This is what the Attorney General is prioritizing while 12 people died last night from COVID-19 related complications at the hospital near my house,” Strangio tweeted. “When we let the gov’t police our bodies like this, they will always leave ‘undesirable’ bodies to die.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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