Attorneys accused the Biden administration Tuesday of deserting female athletes by withdrawing its support for a federal lawsuit in Connecticut seeking to bar transgender participation in girls’ high school sports.
Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb condemned the Justice Department and Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights for reversing stances taken during the Trump administration that supported female high school athletes in Connecticut.
“Defying common sense, the U.S. Department of Education under the Biden administration has abandoned its support for the deserving female athletes who have been sidelined and outpaced by males dominating girls’ sports,” Ms. Holcomb said. “But the government’s politically motivated reversal can’t change biological reality or the correct interpretation of the law.”
The Education Department on Tuesday withdrew its letter of impending enforcement action issued last year after an investigation into Title IX violations by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and Connecticut school districts, which allowed transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports.
“We’re disappointed that our nation’s leaders have chosen to desert high school girls and pretend that their opportunities aren’t worth protecting,” Ms. Holcomb said. “Girls and women in Connecticut — and across the country — deserve better.”
Three Connecticut female track athletes — Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell and Alanna Smith — filed a federal lawsuit in February saying they were deprived of honors and scholastic opportunities by the state policy allowing biological males who identify as females to compete in girls’ sports.
Former Attorney General William P. Barr filed in March a “statement of interest” in favor of the plaintiffs’ interpretation of Title IX, but U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham withdrew the statement in a Tuesday filing, saying that, “the government has reconsidered the matter.”
The withdrawals come shortly before a Friday hearing in the case, and after Mr. Biden signed on his first day in office an executive order barring discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong cheered the decision to withdraw Mr. Barr’s statement.
“Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period,” Mr. Tong said.
Today, Selina Soule testified in favor of SC’s Save Women’s Sports Act:— Christiana Holcomb (@ChristianaADF) February 23, 2021
“Female athletes deserve the same opportunity as boys to excel and chase our dreams. Allowing male athletes to compete in girls’ sports shatters those dreams and strips away opportunities.”#SaveWomensSportspic.twitter.com/TBEo2Mb8e1
The issue has gained steam this year in state legislatures. At least a half-dozen states are advancing bills to bar male-to-female transgender athletes from competing against girls and women in school sports.
Idaho passed such a law last year. A federal court issued a preliminary injunction to stop the law from taking effect in a case being challenged at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Connecticut case was filed after two transgender athletes won multiple awards competing in girls’ high school track-and-field meets.
“Mitchell, for example, would have won the 2019 state championship in the women’s 55-meter indoor track competition, but because two males took first and second place, she was denied the gold medal,” said ADF in a February 2020 statement.
Acting Education Department Assistant Secretary Suzanne Goldberg said in a letter to Connecticut school officials that the department “hereby withdraws the Revised Letter of Impending Enforcement Action” as well as “the underlying findings and determinations in the above-referenced case.”
“Please also be advised that the Department has withdrawn its referral of the above-referenced cases to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting initiation of judicial proceedings,” she said in the Tuesday letter.
Ms. Goldberg, a Columbia Law School professor appointed by Mr. Biden to serve as a deputy assistant secretary at the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, was described by Inside HigherEd as a “champion for LGBTQ rights.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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