Only .02 seconds separated the top female high school track athlete finisher from her competitor in Connecticut’s 55-meter dash in the Class S state championship race on February 14. Canton High School’s Chelsea Mitchell’s 7.18 seconds finish barely edged out Terry Miller of Bloomfield High School’s 7.20 seconds. But the distance between the competitors is vast. The reason — just two days prior to the race, Mitchell’s family, along with two other families, filed a federal lawsuit to block transgender students from participating in girls’ high school sports like track. Miller is a transgender high school track athlete.
“It’s definitely big because I’ve never beaten her before,” Mitchell told AP News of her win on the track. Meanwhile, Miller told the outlet, “I clapped because, for me, I’m not a hater.”
A Heated Debate
The lawsuit alleges participation of transgender athletes in high school sports places females at a disadvantage. Mitchell filed the suit along with the families of Selina Soule of Glastonbury High School and Alanna Smith of Danbury High School.
“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” Smith said of the filing, according to AP News. “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.”
The suit centers on transgender track runners Miller and Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell High School. According to AP News, the suit says the two athletes have won a combined 15 state indoor or outdoor girls championship races since 2017.
The lawsuit also takes aim at policies of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CASCIAC). The CASCIAC’s anti-discrimination policies dictate students be treated in school by the gender they identify with.
“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,” Christina Holcomb, the attorney representing the suit, told the Associated Press. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
Mounting a Defense
Miller and Yearwood have voiced strong opposition to the suit. “I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller said, per AP News. “I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community, and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”
Yearwood also remains defiant. “I will never stop being me!” she said in a statement. “I will never stop running! I hope the next generation of trans youth doesn’t have to fight the fights that I have. I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed, not demonized. For the next generation, I run for you!”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pledged to defend Miller and Yearwood, as well as Connecticut’s anti-discrimination policies.
“The idea that the law only protects the individuals with XX chromosomes as compared to individuals with XY chromosomes is found nowhere in the legislative history of Title IX, in any implementing regulation or in any other aspect of the interpretation of Title IX over the last 50 years,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, told AP News.
Meanwhile, attorneys for religious advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom have requested Miller and Yearwood be barred from competition while the suit advances. According to AP News, a hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Transgender High School Track Athletes Spark Controversy, Lawsuit — Sources
AP News – “Female student beats transgender athlete in high school race”
AP News – “Girls sue to block participation of transgender athletes”
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