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Biden Justice Dept. withdraws from Connecticut federal lawsuit opposing trans student-athletes

The Biden administration withdrew former AG William Barr’s statement of interest in the case, saying, “The government has reconsidered the matter.”

Chelsea Mitchell Terry Miller Connecticut
Cisgender plaintiff Chelsea Mitchell, left, beat trans athlete Terry Miller (center) twice within 8 days of filing her federal lawsuit in Connecticut.
Photo by Christian Abraham, Courtesy of CT Post, Hearst Connecticut Media, used with permission.

Sorry, Alliance Defending Freedom, we’re getting off this crazy train. You’re on your own.

That’s the message from the top officials in the Biden administration, specifically the Departments of Justice and Education. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham — a Trump holdover — joined his new DOJ bosses in informing the U.S. District Court in Hartford it is withdrawing former U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s statement of interest in ADF’s federal lawsuit that objects to the inclusion of transgender student-athletes in women’s sports.

“The government has reconsidered the matter,” they said. “Buhbye, bigots,” they did not add.

The Department of Education also quit the case, notifying those involved that it no longer wishes to be a party in ADF’s federal lawsuit in Connecticut.

Under the leadership of former Education secretary Betsy DeVos, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights spent last year sending threatening letters, vowing to cut off some federal funding to Connecticut school districts that followed the policy, as well as trans-affirming higher education institutions such as Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire — where trans athlete CeCé Telfer graduated after becoming the first out trans NCAA track and field champion. The threat forced that college to rescind its trans inclusion policy for fear of losing federal funding.

On Tuesday, the DOE Office for Civil Rights withdrew those letters “as well as the underlying findings and determinations.”

The ADF is suing the state and the Connecticut Association of Schools, which has a longstanding policy through the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference that is transgender-inclusive, as well as several trans-affirming boards of education.

ADF
The ADF announced a federal lawsuit against Connecticut in February 2020.
Dawn Ennis

The suit was filed a year ago this month, and was followed by a dramatic news conference in which three cisgender female high school athletes spoke to the media, their parents and supporters standing with them on the state capitol’s steps, declaring they could not win in sporting events that allowed trans athletes to compete according to their authentic gender.

Within 8 days of that news conference, plaintiff Chelsea Mitchell outran one of those trans athletes — Terry Miller — at least twice. Mitchell reportedly received a scholarship to an NCAA D1 college for track and field: William & Mary. Co-plaintiff Selina Soule, who like Mitchell is white, is attending the College of Charleston, but the school told Outsports she is not a scholarship winner and her name does not appear in the track and field roster. Miller and the other Black trans athlete Andraya Yearwood, did not win scholarships, and have not elected to pursue athletic careers after graduating high school. The third plaintiff in the federal case, Alanna Smith, is still attending high school in Connecticut.

“I am glad the Biden administration supports individuals rights to be their best authentic self and participate in all activities offered at the school level,” Rahsaan Yearwood, Andraya’s father, told Outsports.

As of press time, a spokesperson for ADF did not respond to our request for comment, but legal counsel Christiana Holcomb did post this statement on the ADF website:

“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. But the government’s politically motivated reversal can’t change biological reality or the correct interpretation of the law. Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls; that’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place. In fact, Title IX exists precisely because of these differences and is intended to ensure that women and girls have an equal opportunity to compete, achieve, and win. We’re disappointed that our nation’s leaders have chosen to desert high school girls and pretend that their opportunities aren’t worth protecting. Girls and women in Connecticut — and across the country — deserve better.”

Meanwhile, ADF is believed to be hard at work in two dozen states, pushing Republican lawmakers to enact carbon-copy legislation of a law like Idaho’s HB 500, which bans trans student-athletes from competing in women’s sports; A federal judge stopped in its tracks last summer pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

“Our clients Andraya and Terry ran on the girls’ team because they are girls,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice. “They had no other options and ran because they loved the sport and were affirmed and celebrated by their schools, coaches and teammates. The Biden administration’s actions show that transgender students are protected from discrimination under federal law. States and schools looking to ban transgender students from spaces and activities that accord with their gender not only face potential lawsuits, but a loss of federal funding. These attacks on transgender youth should be abandoned now.”

Dan Barrett, another lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, which represents Miller and Yearwood, told the AP that the withdrawal by the Biden administration represents “a hint that the government, the Department of Education, may now have a different view of Title IX.”

That appeared evident on day one of Biden’s term of office, when he signed an executive order that reads: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

“Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period,” said Connecticut State Attorney General William Tong in a statement.

The case in federal court remains pending.