Four former high school athletes, who claimed they were “deprived of honors and opportunities” in their sport because of the participation of transgender athletes, will now get the opportunity to continue their yearslong battle in the courts after a ruling on Friday reinstated their case against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti, former runners who filed a lawsuit against the state’s high school sports governing body, had their case heard before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, a year after the case was previously dismissed because the claims were found to be speculative. 

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing the former athletes, announced in a press release Friday that the lawsuit will now proceed in federal district court after all 15 members of the panel agreed “unanimously” to reinstate the case. 

“Selina, Chelsea, Alanna, and Ashley—like all female athletes—deserve access to fair competition. The CIAC’s policy degraded each of their accomplishments and scarred their athletic records, irreparably harming each female athlete’s interest in accurate recognition of her athletic achievements,” ADF senior counsel Roger Brooks said in a statement. 

“The en banc 2nd Circuit was right to allow these brave women to make their case under Title IX and set the record straight. This is imperative not only for the women who have been deprived of medals, potential scholarships, and other athletic opportunities, but for all female athletes across the country.”

Runners on a race track


According to the press release, the court found that the “Plaintiffs have plausibly stated an injury in fact:” “the alleged denial of equal athletic opportunity and concomitant loss of publicly recognized titles and placements during track and field competitions in which they participated against and finished behind” two transgender athletes. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is defending the state’s policy, and the two transgender athletes involved in the case released a statement Friday.

“Today’s narrow decision lays a strong foundation for the district courts to reject these baseless claims on the merits. We look forward to continuing our fight for equality and fairness for all girls, cisgender and transgender alike.”

Starting blocks

The lawsuit filed in 2020, according to The Associated Press, sought injunctions to bar enforcement of the state policy on transgender athletes and to remove records set by transgender athletes from the books between 2017 and 2020. 

According to ADF, during that time, the two transgender athletes “broke 17 girls’ track meet records, deprived girls of more than 85 opportunities to advance to the next level of competition and took 15 women’s state track championship titles.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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