A federal appeals court in New York City ruled on Friday that transgender athletes who are biologially male in Connecticut can participate on female sports teams.
The decision upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by four female runners who claimed they were denied wins, state titles, and athletic opportunities by being required to compete against transgender sprinters.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that discrimination against transgender students is prohibited under Title IX, which bars educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex, The Hill reports.
“All four Plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where Plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events,” the decision said. “And, on numerous occasions, Plaintiffs were indeed ‘champions,’ finishing first in various events, even sometimes when competing against (transgender athletes).”
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Council (CIAC), which regulates scholastic sports in the state, allows high school athletes to compete in sports according to their gender identity. The lawsuit challenging this policy was brought by cisgender runners.
The American Civil Liberties Union represented the CIAC, five Connecticut school boards, and two former athletes in the case. Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, called the ruling “a critical victory for fairness, equality and inclusion” and said it “helps ensure every young person has the right to play.”
Lawyer Christiana Kiefer, who represents four female athletes from Connecticut and is affiliated with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, said her team are considering options for how to respond to Friday’s decision, including the possibility of requesting a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Our clients, like all female athletes across the country, deserve fair competition,” Kiefer told reporters. “And that means fair and equal quality of competition, and that just does not happen when you’re forced to compete against biological males in their sports.”
“The vast majority of the American public recognizes that in order to have fair sports, we have to protect the female category, and I think you’re seeing that trend increasingly with states across the country passing laws to protect women’s sports,” Kiefer went on to say. “This is certainly not the end of the road in the fight for fairness for female athletes.”
The issue of transgender athletes competing in sports is a controversial topic, with at least 12 Republican-led states enacting laws prohibiting transgender women or girls from participating in sports on the grounds that it gives them an unfair advantage.