In 1971, nearly 12 times as many high school boys as girls played sports. Title IX of the Education Amendments passed the following year, ensuring equal opportunities for women and girls in school-based athletics. Now, boys who identify as girls are increasingly infiltrating girls athletic teams and taking titles and opportunities from female competitors.
A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., introduced a measure on Tuesday to clarify that schools and public universities violate Title IX and can lose federal funding if they allow men in women’s sports.
“Title IX established a fair and equal chance for women and girls to compete, and sports should be no exception,” said Loeffler, who once participated in high school cross country, track, and basketball. Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas co-sponsor the bill.
Already, the U.S. Department of Education said it would withhold nearly $18 million in federal funds from Connecticut school districts unless they withdraw before Oct. 1 from the state’s governing body for high school athletics. Two male runners in the state have dominated high school girls track and field competitions, taking away 15 state titles from biological girls.
Runners Selina Soule of Glastonbury High School, Alanna Smith of Danbury High School, and Chelsea Mitchell of Canton High School filed a federal discrimination complaint in 2019 and a lawsuit in February, arguing the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy on transgender athletes unfairly marginalized them in violation of Title IX. In May, the Education Department ruled Connecticut denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities.
“It’s demoralizing to know—even before I get to the track—that no matter how hard I work, I won’t be competing on a fair field,” said Smith, who is now 16. As a freshman, a male athlete pushed her from runner-up to third place in an event.
In March, Idaho became the first state in the country to approve a law protecting women’s sports. A federal judge temporarily blocked its implementation in August after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on behalf of a male athlete who identifies and competes as a woman at Boise State University. On Sept. 19, Alliance Defending Freedom, the nonprofit legal firm representing female athletes in Idaho and Connecticut, filed an appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
ADF attorney Christina Holcomb said the lawsuits aim to protect “nearly 50 years of progress” since Title IX passed and women’s sports were established because “biology mattered.”
Polls show the majority of Americans agree. A survey conducted by Spry Strategies in conjunction with the Women’s Liberation Front revealed 79 percent of Idaho voters and 74 percent of voters in California agreed boys and men should not be permitted to participate in girls and womens sports. Those numbers track with a separate poll from the American Principles Project in July that showed an average of 77 percent of voters in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina opposed letting boys compete against girls.
“It’s time to encapsulate and solidify Title IX,” Holcomb said.