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Court revives case challenging state’s policy allowing trans girls to compete in girls’ high school sports

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

(CNN) — A federal appeals court has revived a case brought by four cisgender women in Connecticut over a state policy that allows transgender athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday the case should return to the district court for consideration. In the 48-page ruling, the court said the plaintiffs have the legal right – known as standing – needed to bring the suit and have presented sufficient evidence to seek monetary damages.

The lawsuit was filed in 2020 on behalf of Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti, who were then high school athletes. They claimed in their lawsuit that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) policy was a violation of Title IX, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex.

In their suit, the runners said allowing transgender girls to participate in girls’ track and field is a violation of Title IX because it puts “students who are born female” at a disadvantage as they have fewer opportunities to win and receive public recognition than transgender female students.

In Friday’s ruling, the court noted the judges were not making a decision on whether the plaintiff’s Title IX claims have any merit or whether they would be entitled to the relief that they seek.  However, the ruling states the district court should weigh in on whether the plaintiffs have a valid claim under Title IX.

A federal district court judge had dismissed the case in April 2021, saying the girls’ request to block the policy was moot because the two transgender athletes mentioned in the suit graduated in 2020 and there was “no indication” that the plaintiffs would again compete against transgender athletes in the state.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision and said the plaintiffs’ claim that the CIAC policy put them at a competitive disadvantage was unfounded.

Roger Brooks, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative nonprofit representing the plaintiffs, applauded the appellate court decision and said his clients deserve access to fair competition.

Brooks said in a statement to CNN that the CIAC policy “degraded” his clients’ accomplishments and “scarred their athletic records.”

“The en banc 2nd Circuit was right to allow these brave women to make their case under Title IX and set the record straight,” Brooks said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut described the decision as “narrow and technical.” The groups have defended the Connecticut policy in court and represent two transgender athletes who joined the lawsuit.

“Today’s narrow decision lays a strong foundation for the district courts to reject these baseless claims on the merits. We look forward to continuing our fight for equality and fairness for all girls, cisgender and transgender alike,” the groups said in a joint statement.

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