On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by three high school girls and their mothers against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), which has permitted boys to compete in events and win awards that would otherwise have gone to girls.
Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), were denied opportunities to compete at higher levels as boys took home the prizes. CIAC’s policy allowed two males to compete in girls’ athletic competitions beginning in the 2017 track season. Those boys have taken 15 women’s state championship titles (titles held in 2016 by nine different Connecticut girls) and have taken more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher level competitions from female track athletes in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons alone.
Mitchell, who is currently ranked the fastest biological girl in Connecticut in the 55m, lost four girls’ state championships and two all-New England awards. She recalled, “I knew that I was the fastest girl here, one of the fastest in the state. I remembered all my training and everything I had been taught on how to maximize my performance … I thought of all the times that other girls have lost. I could feel the adrenaline in my blood and hope that wafted from me. That just possibly, I could win this. Then, the gun went off. And I lost.”
Soule missed qualifying for the state championship 55m final and an opportunity to qualify for the New England championship by one spot in the 2018-19 season as two spots were taken by boys. She said, “It’s very frustrating and heartbreaking when us girls are at the start of the race and we already know that these [male] athletes are going to come out and win no matter how hard you try. They took away the spots of deserving girls, athletes … me being included.”
Smith, whose father is MLB Hall of Famer relief pitcher Lee Smith, won the 400m at the 2019 outdoor New England Regional Championships as a freshman and finished second in the 200m at the New England Regional Championships. She stated, “Even before I get to the track, I already know that I’m not going to get first place, or maybe even second place . . . I know that no matter how hard I work, I won’t be able to have the top spot.”
ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb stated, “Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, 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. And forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics. Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
The complaint filed in Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools states that policies that permit boys to compete in girls sports threaten Title IX gains because “inescapable biological facts of the human species [are] not stereotypes, ‘social constructs,’ or relicts of past discrimination. As a result of these many inherent physiological differences between men and women after puberty, male athletes consistently achieve records 10-20% higher than comparably fit and trained women across almost all athletic events, with even wider consistent disparities in long-term endurance events and contests of sheer strength such as weight-lifting.”
The complaint adds, “In sum, the real-world result of the CIAC Policy is that in Connecticut interscholastic track competitions, while highly competitive girls are experiencing the no doubt character-building ‘agony of defeat,’ they are systematically being deprived of a fair and equal opportunity to experience the ‘thrill of victory.’ A transgender athlete advocate recently wrote that this should be accepted because part of competitive sports is ‘learning to lose.’ A policy such as the CIAC Policy that ensures that girls get extra lessons in losing, however, cannot be reconciled with Title IX.”
ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner concluded, “Girls deserve the same opportunity as boys to excel and chase their dreams. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports shatters those dreams and steals opportunities. Boys have physical advantages over girls. It’s dispiriting to girls competing against boys to know what the outcome likely is before the race even starts. The government shouldn’t rob these girls of the opportunity not only to win, but to earn college scholarships and launch their own careers in athletics, coaching, and more.”