Three Connecticut high school girls set off a wave of state legislative proposals aimed at blocking male athletes from participating in women’s sports.
Runners Selina Soule of Glastonbury High School, Alanna Smith of Danbury High School, and Chelsea Mitchell of Canton High School filed a federal lawsuit last month accusing Connecticut’s high school athletic governing body of violating a federal law that demands equal opportunities for women in education.
In a matter of weeks, lawmakers in Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and South Carolina introduced measures to protect girls from having to compete against male athletes who identify as female. With titles like the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” the bills aim to require student-athletes to compete on teams that correspond to their biological sex. Arizona’s bill already cleared the state’s House of Representatives last week. It now heads to the state Senate.
Mississippi Sen. Angela Hill, a Republican, said Soule, Smith, and Mitchell’s plight provided a wake-up call: “We want a policy in place in Mississippi before this happens. It’s not a matter of if. It’s when.”
The Connecticut lawsuit claims the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy deprived the three young women of track titles and scholarship opportunities after two male sprinters who identify as females won a combined 15 girls state championship titles. Their victories have taken away more than 85 opportunities for girls to participate in higher-level competitions in the last three years.
“We cannot continue to pretend that allowing males to compete in the girls’ category does anything less than spell the end of women’s sports,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm representing the Connecticut athletes.
LGBT advocates in some states argue the bills are trying to solve a nonexistent problem because only a small percentage of people identify as transgender and even fewer want to play sports. The Idaho High School Activities Association said a handful of transgender students have inquired about competing, but so far none have tried. Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, a Republican, the sponsor of that state’s bill, and a former college basketball coach, said as the number of children transitioning in the state rises, the girls are in danger of becoming “spectators in our own sport.”
The debate is also playing out in international sports. Three-time Australian Olympian Tamsyn Lewis Manou has called on the International Olympic Committee to take action amid reports that a record number of transgender athletes want to compete in the Olympics scheduled for this summer.
“People are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness,” she told Australia’s 2GB Radio. “If we don’t take a stand, what’s going to happen to the female category of sport?”