ADF Targets Trans Athletes in Connecticut Lawsuit

Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood
Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, seen here accepting honors at an Athlete Ally event in Manhattan in 2019, were at the center of the battle for the rights of trans athletes in Connecticut.
Athlete Ally

The ongoing campaign against transgender student-athletes took another turn on February 12 when three Connecticut-based cisgender student-athletes and their parents, backed by the notorious anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Connecticut alleging that the kids’ “dreams and goals” were thwarted because they had to compete with trans athletes.

The ADF has launched a multidimensional campaign to reverse the state’s policy allowing transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions. The ADF and three other student-athletes filed a Title IX sex discrimination complaint in June asking the federal Office of Civil Rights to investigate their case and ban transgender individuals from participating in girls’ high school athletics. This time they’re again claiming transgender student-athletes’ participation amounts to a violation of Title IX, and they’re aiming their lawsuit at the Connecticut Interscholastic Conference and school boards in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Danbury, and Canton.

“Unfortunately for Plaintiffs and other girls in Connecticut, those dreams and goals — those opportunities for participation, recruitment, and scholarships — are now being directly and negatively impacted by a new policy that is permitting boys who are male in every biological respect to compete in girls’ athletic competitions if they claim a female gender identity,” stated the lawsuit, which deliberately misgendered transgender athletes.

The common thread in the Office of Civil Rights complaint and the latest lawsuit is that both actions stem from competitions in which those six cisgender student-athletes participated in track matches against Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, a pair of talented transgender girls whose success has been derided by the far right as illegitimate simply because they are trans. Yearwood and Miller have defended themselves in the face of adversity, and they were honored at Athlete Ally’s annual awards event in Manhattan in November.

“I want everyone to be comfortable being themselves,” Miller told Gay City News before she was recognized on that evening in November. “Don’t be scared to participate in sports, because we have rights, too.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has long stood behind Yearwood and Miller. Chase Strangio, a transgender attorney and deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, accompanied the girls at the Athlete Ally awards. Following the ADF’s recent court filing, the ACLU announced it would “be seeking to join this lawsuit and defend the interest of trans student athletes.”

Strangio also voiced strong words of support for the girls.

“[The] complaint filed in Connecticut targeting the inclusion of transgender girls in girls’ athletics and specifically naming Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood is a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life,” Strangio said in a written statement. “The purpose of high school athletics is to support inclusion, build social connection and teamwork, and help all students thrive and grow. Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn’t apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students and compromise the work of ending the long legacy of sex discrimination in sports.”

The ADF and other transphobes are not just setting their sights on Connecticut. Conservatives are waging a broader campaign to strip trans youth of their right to play sports and receive gender-affirming care. Several bills intended to block transgender student-athletes from participating in sports have emerged in different states, but the political viability of those bills is not clear. In Alabama, a GOP measure dubbed the Gender is Real Legislative (GIRL) Act — which would have banned trans athletes from competing against individuals who were assigned a different sex at birth — died at the committee level this month. Similar bills have also been proposed in Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Washington, according to the ACLU.

Meanwhile, efforts in South Dakota to bar doctors from providing gender-affirming care failed this month despite the Republican Party’s strong grip on both houses of the State Legislature there. That bill cleared the lower house, but was voted down in a State Senate committee.