President Joe Biden’s Justice Department has withdrawn from a federal lawsuit in Connecticut aiming to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls’ high school sports.
Connecticut is one of 17 states that allows high school athletes to compete in sports according to their gender identity without regulation.
The Trump’s administration joined the case last March when Attorney General Bill Barr filed a statement of interest arguing the state’s policy infringed on Title IX, a federal civil rights law that guarantees girls equal access to school activities.
Biden’s Justice Department has ‘reconsidered the matter,’ U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham wrote in a filing on Tuesday ahead of a Friday hearing on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
President Joe Biden’s Justice Department has withdrawn from a federal lawsuit in Connecticut aiming to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls’ high school sports
U.S. Attorney John Durham, center, said the Justice Department has ‘reconsidered the matter’
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which sent letters last year threatening to cut federal funding from Connecticut school districts, has also withdrawn its support for the lawsuit.
Last year, the families of three cisgender female athletes who run cross country sued officials at Glastonbury High School and Canton High School to block transgender athletes from competing.
The girls, who lost state titles to transgender athletes in 2018, claimed they were forced to compete against two transgender sprinters.
The conservative nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the girls: Selina Soule, who was a senior at Glastonbury High School; Chelsea Mitchell, who was a senior at Canton High School; and Alanna Smith, who was a sophomore at Danbury High School.
The lawsuit followed a Title IX complaint filed in June 2018 by the girls’ families and the Alliance Defending Freedom with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Chelsea Mitchell, who was a senior at Canton High School, pictured, was one of the three girls who filed the lawsuit
Selina Soule, who was a senior at Glastonbury High School, also claimed that girls should not have to compete against transgender athletes
On Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.
Dan Barrett, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut which represents the two transgender athletes in the lawsuit, indicated that Tuesday’s news may show a shift in views of Title IX.
He said Tuesday’s action represents ‘a hint that the government, the Department of Education, may now have a different view of Title IX.’
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday he was pleased with the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw Barr’s statement.
‘Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period,’ he said in a statement.
Supporters of restrictions on transgender athletes argue that transgender girls, because they were born male, are naturally stronger, faster and bigger than those born female.
Attorney Christiana Holcomb, who is representing the girls, said last year that making the girls compete against transgender athletes ‘shatters their dreams and destroys their athletic opportunities.’
‘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,’ Holcomb said.
However, supporters of the transgender athletes argue that male genetic advantage fades when hormone therapies take effect.
Joanna Harper, a medical physicist and transgender runner from Portland, Oregon, believes there needs to be a standard based on hormone levels.
Until hormone therapies begin to work, genetic males have a distinct advantage over genetic females, she said. Most transgender teens don’t begin hormone therapy until after puberty.
‘The gender identity doesn’t matter, it’s the testosterone levels,’ said Harper, who studies transgender athletes.
‘Trans girls should have the right to compete in sports. But cisgender girls should have the right to compete and succeed, too. How do you balance that? That’s the question.’