HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has reinstated a challenge to Connecticut's policy of allowing transgender girls to compete in girls high school sports, two months after a three-judge panel upheld the rules.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City said the full court will rehear the appeal of four cisgender runners who said they were unfairly forced to race against transgender athletes in high school competitions.
The court said in a decision Monday that a majority of its judges voted in favor of rehearing the appeal, a rare move by the court. The court did not say why it voted on whether to rehear the case, and none of the parties to the lawsuit requested a rehearing.
The court has become more conservative in recent years, with five of its 13 judges — excluding several senior judges — having been appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Christiana Kiefer, a lawyer with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the four Connecticut cisgender athletes, said the group was pleased by the court's decision.
"Every woman deserves the respect and dignity that comes with having an equal opportunity to excel and win in athletics, and ADF remains committed to protecting the future of women's sports," Kiefer said in a statement.
Transgender athletes' ability to compete in sports is the subject of a continuing national debate. Eighteen states have passed laws banning transgender women or girls in sports based on the premise it gives them an unfair competitive advantage.
The four cisgender runners filed a lawsuit in 2020 against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's high school sports governing body, as well as several local school districts.
They 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. They also sought money damages. All the student athletes involved in the lawsuit have since graduated.
In December, a three-judge panel said the four cisgender athletes lacked standing to sue — in part because their claims that they were deprived of wins, state titles and athletic scholarship opportunities were speculative.
CIAC officials declined to comment Tuesday. The organization has said its policy is designed to comply with a state law that requires all high school students be treated according to their gender identity. It also said the policy is in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.
Two transgender sprinters at the center of the lawsuit — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, from Bloomfield and Cromwell, respectively — frequently outperformed their cisgender competitors.
They were defended in the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said Tuesday that it looked forward to defending the state's policy again.
"As the initial ruling found, cisgender girls lose nothing from the participation of transgender girls and Connecticut's policy simply recognizes the right of all student athletes to equal participation and protection under Title IX," Joshua Block, an attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement.