by Blake Elliott
April 29, 2020
Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) has recently come under fire for signing the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. This common-sense law makes Idaho the first state to protect female athletes’ opportunities to compete (including for scholarships) without going head to head with male athletes who identify as female but retain immense physical advantages. Now, the ACLU is suing to block the law and undermine women’s sports.
In Connecticut, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing three high school women facing precisely this problem, after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference changed its policies to allow men who identify as women to compete in women’s sports. As ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb notes, “Title IX was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women under this law. We shouldn’t force these young women to be spectators in their own sports.”
It’s not just athletic scholarships that are at stake. Sports play a crucial role in the development of young people by helping them build character, learn the value of hard work, and learn how to compete. Sports can bring people together and give a student-athlete the opportunity to be part of something bigger than him or herself.
I grew up in West Texas, and it was common for the whole region to rally in support of high school teams that were excelling. I see it now when 100,000-plus Aggie fans pack into Kyle Field to support Texas A&M football. During these times, peoples’ stances on politics or social issues are put to the side as fans unite to support their team. Sports can help develop life-long friendships and memories.
But in recent times, men who identify as transgender women have begun to dominate women’s sports, both at the amateur and professional levels. According to expert testimony filed with the Connecticut athletic complaint, “…the lifetime best performances of three female Olympic champions in the 400m event—including Team USA’s Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix—would not match the performances of literally thousands of boys and men, just in 2017 alone, including many who would not be considered top tier male performers.” Dr. Gregory Brown of the University of Nebraska, who provided that expert testimony, has also found that puberty in males creates for a height and body mass difference that gives a significant athletic advantage to males.
Chelsea Mitchell, one of the three Connecticut athletes who filed the ADF complaint, summed it up well by saying that the three athletes are simply asking for a fair chance. It is clear that they’re not getting it: Terry Miller and Adraya Yearwood, the two biologically male athletes at the heart of the lawsuit, have won 15 girls indoor and outdoor state championships since 2017. Just last February, they finished 1st and 2nd in the 55-meter state championship, with Miller breaking the state record. Miller has also set record-breaking times in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, typically blowing other sprinters completely out of the race.
Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, spoke about the issues surrounding transgender athletes running with girls by saying, “A lot of people have asked, can you run a separate race, can you put an asterisk next to their name, do something that shows there is a standard that is different from that?” One sports league is trying just that: The Raw Powerlifting Federation is now in the process of creating a transgender division after Mary Gregory, who is a biological male, shattered various women’s weightlifting records. The federation’s president stripped Gregory of the titles and records after “it was revealed that this female lifter was actually a male in the process of becoming a transgender female.” When this story broke, former Great Britain Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies spoke out, tweeting: “This is a trans woman, a male body with male physiology setting a world record & winning a woman’s event in America in powerlifting. A woman with female biology cannot compete… it’s a pointless unfair playing field.”
The Connecticut women are still waiting for justice. Alanna Smith, an athlete in the lawsuit and daughter of MLB Hall of Famer Lee Smith, was a “three-peat” state champion in the 100-meter race in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, setting school and state records. While the 100-meter race was her strong race in middle school, she has recently excelled in the 400-meter race in high school. Despite her past athletic successes and clear potential, she cannot compete and win against the men.
Christiana Holcomb, the attorney representing the girls from Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement: “Having separate boys’ and girls’ sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition. And forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics.” It is revealing that these issues surrounding transgender athletes in women’s sports are not getting the support of Democrats, like Elizabeth Warren, even as they continue to push for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Rather than making this into a “trans rights” issue, it must be acknowledged that each girl and woman deserves the right to participate in sports knowing that they are competing on a level playing field and that they have an equal opportunity to win. Alanna Smith, Selina Soule, and Chelsea Mitchell are prime examples of female athletes whose athletic opportunities have been sharply curtailed by men’s ability to compete in women’s sports. (There are many more examples.)
Idaho Governor Brad Little should stand firm and stand for women. And the ACLU should be ashamed for seeking to deprive Idaho girls of these opportunities.
Blake Elliott is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.