Victory for trans athletes: Federal judge tosses lawsuit

Gay sport news

Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood
Terry Miller, left and Andraya Yearwood in 2019 | Karleigh Webb

A federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a lawsuit challenging the inclusive policy that allows transgender student-athletes to compete according to their gender identity.

In a rare Sunday ruling, a federal judge in Connecticut today dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of four young women who are cisgender, challenging the transgender inclusive policy of the state scholastic sports agency and several school boards.

In response to the judge’s decision to toss its suit, the extremist Christian anti-LGBTQ law group vowed to appeal.

“Unfortunately, this court has chosen to ignore our clients’ demoralizing experiences of losing to male runners,” ADF’s legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said in the hate group’s online statement, which misgenders two Black trans women named in the suit — former high school athletes Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — by repeatedly referring to them as males.

In May 2020, District Judge Robert Chatigny, a Clinton appointee, ordered ADF attorneys to stop doing that. Their response was to demand the judge voluntarily step down from deciding the case, which, obviously, didn’t happen.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Miller and Yearwood, hailed the dismissal.

Andraya Yearwood. Steve Remich/ACLU
Andraya Yearwood, 2021.

“This is good news for transgender students in Connecticut and around the country,” said ACLU attorney Joshua Block in a statement. “Today’s ruling shows that allowing transgender students to fully participate in school — including sports — is consistent with existing federal law. This is yet another sign that lawmakers attacking trans youth in states around the country have no legal basis for their claims. When Andraya and Terry ran in high school, they belonged on the girls’ teams because they are girls. They benefited from being on a team, working to better themselves and having an escape from the rest of their days — the same things that anyone else benefits from when playing sports. We will continue to fight against these attacks on transgender youth wherever they come.”

From left to right, “Changing the Game” producer Clare Tucker, director Michael Barnett, runners Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, skier Sarah Rose Huckman, executive producer Alex Schmider, wrestler Mack Beggs. “Changing the Game” via Twitter
From left to right, “Changing the Game” producer Clare Tucker, director Michael Barnett, runners Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, skier Sarah Rose Huckman, executive producer Alex Schmider, wrestler Mack Beggs.

Yearwood. who is not pursuing any sport in college, and former wrestler Mack Beggs are among the trans athletes profiled in the documentary, Changing the Game, which will premiere on Hulu in June.

Although we haven’t heard from Yearwood or Miller as of press time, Yearwood’s father Rahsaan Yearwood had this to say about the case being dismissed: “For one fleeting moment one of our most marginalized communities has the opportunity to rejoice in their authentic being and feel affirmed in doing so.”

Chelsea Mitchell Terry Miller Connecticut Photo by Christian Abraham, Courtesy of CT Post, Hearst Connecticut Media, used with permission.
Chelsea Mitchell, left, and Terry Miller, center. in 2020.

Today’s ADF statement also fails to mention that one of their plaintiffs beat Miller in at least two track meets within nine days of filing the suit in February last year. That’s something William & Mary scholarship winner and track star Chelsea Mitchell also neglected to note in her statement.

“It’s discouraging that the court ruled to dismiss my right to compete on a level playing field,” Mitchell said. “Today’s ruling ignores the physical advantages that male athletes have over female athletes. Female athletes like me should have the opportunity to excel and compete fairly. No girl should have to settle into her starting blocks knowing that, no matter how hard she works, she doesn’t have a fair shot at victory.”

The writing was on the wall and has been since February, when the Biden administration pulled its support of the ADF’s suit, reversing the stance taken by former Education secretary Betsy DeVos and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

Outsports has reached out to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference as well as the mother of one of the original plaintiffs, Selina Soule, seeking comment, but we haven’t heard from them as of press time.

However, through the ADF, Soule and her co-plaintiffs did offer these comments in a statement posted on its website:

 YouTube
Selina Soule

“Today’s decision ignores the unfairness of the CIAC’s policy, which allows biological males who identify as female to compete in the girls’ category,” Soule said in the ADF statement. “During all four years of high school, I worked incredibly hard to shave fractions of a second off of my time, only to lose to athletes who had an unfair physical advantage. I don’t want any other girl to experience the pain and heartbreak I had to go through, and I will continue to stand up for fairness in women’s sports for as long as it takes.” Soule is now attending the College of Charleston, but the school told Outsports she is not a scholarship winner and her name does not appear in the track and field roster.

“When I raced against male athletes, I knew that, even if I ran my best, I could only finish second in my heat, and third overall,” added the newest plaintiff, high school junior Ashley Nicoletti.

Unfortunately for Nicoletti, her “best” wasn’t good enough in the one meet our Karleigh Webb found, in which she competed against Miller. “The fastest seeded heat and she was DEAD LAST,” Webb reported. Nicoletti didn’t just get beat by a trans athlete; she finished 9th in a heat of nine runners and 13th overall.

Yearwood and Miller are no longer competing in high school but even without any other competition from trans athletes, Nicoletti said in her statement to ADF she will continue to fight: “Girls like me have suffered countless losses because of the CIAC’s policy, and today’s ruling ignores this fact. I will continue to tell my story and fight for fairness in women’s sports,” she said.

“Today’s decision is disheartening for athletes like me who train hard every day to be our physical and mental best at the starting block,” added the other plaintiff who is still in high school, Alanna Smith. Smith’s father, Lee, was inducted into MLB Hall of Fame in 2019. “Biological unfairness does not go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. 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.”

Two of the strongest advocates for trans student-athletes also spoke out, via Twitter, and vowed that this victory was just the beginning as they keep fighting for inclusion: ACLU deputy director for transgender justice Chase Strangio and trans athlete and advocate Chris Mosier:

Read the judge’s ruling by clicking here:

soule_et_al_v_ct_association_of_schools_et_al_-_order_granting_mtd.pdf

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