Letitia James Urges Federal Court to Rule in Favor of Trans Athletes in Connecticut

FILE PHOTO: New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, announces a lawsuit by the state of New York against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc in New York City
New York State Attorney General Letitia James has filed a brief in support of trans student athletes.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson

New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general from across the nation in filing a brief urging the federal courts to toss a lawsuit in Connecticut aiming to ban trans students from participating in school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

The brief, filed in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, demands that the court affirm a ruling in April that dismissed a lawsuit challenging trans-inclusive sports policies from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC.) The brief stems from a case lodged by four cisgender girls who allege that transgender players pose a “competitive disadvantage” to cisgender athletes. In 2019, former Connecticut high school track stars Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, who are transgender, made headlines after student-athletes claimed that they unfairly won competitions against cisgender girls.

“Attacks on transgender students are a violation of their rights and simply will not be tolerated,” James said in a written statement. “When we adopt inclusive policies that honor every individual’s rights with dignity, we create a fairer, more just, and more prosperous society for all. The law does not discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and I will do everything in my power to fight for equal protection under the law for every community.”

In the brief, the attorneys general argue that Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 does not prohibit transgender female athletes from playing on teams that align with their gender identity.

“That argument has no basis in the statutory text, and if accepted, would undermine the amici States’ efforts to create inclusive school communities,” the brief states. “Amici States strongly support the right of transgender people to live with dignity, be free from discrimination, and have equal access to education, government-sponsored opportunities, and other incidents of life, including student athletic programs. Discrimination and exclusion on the basis of transgender status cause tangible economic, educational, emotional, and health harms.”

Furthermore, the states pointed to the benefits of adopting trans-inclusive sports programs, which include improving the mental health of trans students and their ability to focus in the classroom. In the brief, officials emphasized that student-athletes often experience a boost to their self-esteem and a lower risk of “developing diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and obesity, as well as cardiovascular and bone and joint diseases.”

“The experiences of amici States and other jurisdictions show that policies and practices that facilitate participation of transgender people— including policies permitting young people to participate in the single-sex sports teams consistent with their gender identity—promote inclusive community, workplace, and school environments that benefit all,” the brief states.

Some of those joining the brief include the attorneys general of California, New Jersey, Virginia,  Colorado, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and other states.

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