Setting up a possible Supreme Court showdown, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Connecticut high school sports authorities and five Connecticut school boards alleging that they violated Title IX provisions by allowing transgender students to participate on women’s high school sports teams.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy permits transgender students to play on teams that align with their gender identity. Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy group, four students and their mothers sued, seeking to have the policy overturned, to have student records revised to remove awards won by transgender athletes, and to have the defendants in the case pay damages.
According to Politico, the court agreed with the district court decision in Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, which found that the cisgender track athletes and their families lacked legal standing for their suit. They further decided that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and its member schools were not on notice that their policy might violate Title IX.
In its decision, the appeals court recognized the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that Title VII protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision noted that both Title VII and Title IX contain similar language.
The ACLU, which represented the defendants and two transgender students who joined the case as intervenors, hailed the decision.
Political Fluctuations Impact Case
The decision follows a period of legal flux around the issue of transgender athletes. Initially, Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools received support from the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration’s Department of Justice. Under the Biden administration, however, the DOJ withdrew its support.
The case also corresponds with a growing number of states that have passed laws requiring student athletes to participate in sports that correspond with the gender they are assigned at birth.
Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC Monitors Current Legal Landscape
The attorneys at Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC are committed to remaining abreast of all the latest Title IX developments, including those pertaining to transgender athletes. If you have questions about Title IX or need guidance around how Title IX applies to transgender athletes, contact us online or call us at (737) 200-2332 to schedule a consultation.