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Athletes, coaches, 23 states rally to support women's sports case at 2nd Circuit

Twelve friend-of-the-court briefs filed with federal appeals court in support of Connecticut female athletes

Friday, Mar 31, 2023

NEW YORK – Athletes, Olympians, coaches, sports officials, 23 states, and several athletic and advocacy organizations have united in support of female athletes and their rights under Title IX in 12 friend-of-the-court briefs filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent four female athletes—Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti—who were consistently deprived of honors and opportunities to compete at elite levels because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference adopted a policy that allows males who identify as female to compete in girls’ athletic events. Last month, the 2nd Circuit announced that the full court would rehear the case after a three-judge panel of the court ruled against protecting female athletes in December of last year.

“Selina, Chelsea, Alanna, and Ashley—like all female athletes—deserve access to fair competition. The CIAC’s policy degraded each of their accomplishments and scarred their athletic records, irreparably harming each female athlete’s interest in accurate recognition of her athletic achievements,” said ADF Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer. “The dozens of states, athletes, and coaches who have rallied in support of women’s sports are urging the 2nd Circuit to set the record straight and allow these brave women to make their case under Title IX. This is imperative not only for the women who have been deprived of medals, potential scholarships, and opportunities, but also for all female athletes across the country.”

Starting in 2017, two male athletes began competing in Connecticut girls’ high school track. In just three years, those two males broke 17 girls’ track meet records, deprived girls of more than 85 opportunities to advance to the next level of competition, and took 15 women’s state track championship titles. Four of those championship titles were earned by ADF client Chelsea Mitchell. Four times she was the fastest female in a women’s state championship race, and four times she watched that title, honor, and recognition go to a male athlete instead. Over the course of her high school career, Mitchell lost to these males more than 20 times. The other female athletes represented in this case all likewise have been denied medals, placements, or advancement opportunities because of the male athletes competing on their team.

“The distinction between males and females turns on ‘biology and reproductive function,’ not an individual’s internal understanding of his gender identity,” the brief led by the state of Tennessee and joined by 22 other states, explains. The brief notes how CIAC “violated Plaintiffs’ Title IX rights by denying females, over several track-and-field seasons, an equal chance to be champions. Providing girls the opportunity to experience the thrill of victory was one of the main athletic purposes of Title IX. At the time of Title IX’s enactment, the public understood that allowing biological boys to compete against girls would result in boys taking away championship opportunities designated for girls.”

The brief of 73 female athletes, coaches, sports officials, and parents explains that each of “these athletes come from many levels of playing—from elementary school to collegiate; from professional to Olympic. No matter their level of accomplishment, their years in their chosen sport, or their age—some minors and some adults—all have been forced to compete against males or to suffer the psychological impact of helplessly watching the forced competition of men against women.” They note that their stories “demonstrate, through painfully lived experiences, that Soule’s situation is tragically not unique. Female athletes across the country, at all levels of sports, stand on the precipice of permanently losing their access to equal opportunity and safety in sports. Based on their biological sex, they are at risk of being pushed aside in law and in life in a permanently damaging and irreversible way.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Kiefer (KEE’-fer)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Friend-of-the-court briefs filed with U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit