A federal lawsuit filed by parents and teachers in Connecticut against two transgender female athletes, the Connecticut Association of Schools and multiple boards of education is challenging the state’s trans-inclusive policies allowing transgender individuals to join the athletic teams most closely aligning with their gender identities.
The plaintiffs in Soule et. al. v. CT Association of Schools, Inc. et. al. are suing for violations under Title IX, which mandates equal opportunity for both sexes, saying transgender female athletes on girls’ athletic teams have a competitive advantage and strip the rest of their peers from recruitment and scholarship opportunities.
Defendants say Title IX, which mandates equal opportunity for both sexes, protects transgender women from discrimination in athletics.
“I’m seeing more and more high school athletic associations adopting policies that enable student athletes participating along with their peers,” triathlete Chris Mosier, the first transgender man to make the U.S. national sprint duathlon men's team, said on a press call Monday. “[But] now, [the plaintiffs] are asking, ‘What is in their pants?’”
Indeed, as more schools craft policies to protect transgender students under Title IX, they open themselves to potential lawsuits from families and others uncomfortable with the change.
“The reality is that we can’t anticipate what type of lawsuit will happen,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, said. “But there have been schools across the country that have protected transgender students for decades and there have been no lawsuits and no problems.”
When schools have faced litigation, such as in the case of Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County (Virginia) School Board, districts and boards that have not protected transgender students under Title IX have been found liable by the lower courts.
“I don’t think school boards will inevitably face litigation,” Strangio said. “As to the school boards that are considering the likelihood of success of any lawsuit should be aware that those schools that are discriminating have come out liable in litigation.”
Though the federal government has stepped away from fully enforcing Title IX, and at least 14 states have introduced legislation seeking to prohibit transgender students’ protections, “trans folks can still sue, and can still win in court," Mara Keisling, founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Education Dive in November.
And in this case, where existing policy crafted to protect transgender students is coming into question, the American Civil Liberties Union says it expects the lawsuit to be unsuccessful.
With Connecticut's indoor track finals beginning today, the ACLU said on the call the two transgender athletes against whom the lawsuit was filed will continue to participate unless a court says otherwise.