Justice Department jumps into the trans athlete question

There’s still a federal lawsuit grinding its way through the system involving the families of three female high school athletes in Connecticut who are suing to prevent transgender students (boys who “identify” as girls) from competing in girls’ athletic competitions. We’re expecting some sort of decision later this year, but now a new player has jumped into the fray. Attorney General William Barr has filed a statement of interest on behalf of the Justice Department in support of the plaintiffs. What, if any impact this will have remains to be seen, but it appears that the current administration is staking out their position early. (Associated Press)

The U.S. Justice Department is getting involved in a federal civil rights lawsuit that seeks to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from competing as girls in interscholastic sports.

Attorney General William Barr signed what is known as a statement of interest Tuesday, arguing against the policy of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the board that oversees the state’s high school athletic competitions.

The conference allows athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify, arguing it is following a state law that requires high school students be treated according to their gender identity. It also argues the policy is in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.

Barr is taking an interesting approach in explaining the government’s position. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has been citing Title IX as the rationale for their policy of allowing transgender students to dominate the girls’ track and field events in that state, defining the transgender athletes as “girls” without questioning the underlying reality. Barr has countered by also citing Title IX, saying that CIAC “deprives those women of the single-sex athletic competitions that are one of the marquee accomplishments of Title IX.”

In what probably passes for a shocking level of respect for actual science in 2020, the Justice Department filing goes on to say that under CIAC’s interpretation “schools may not account for the real physiological differences between men and women.”

Keep in mind that all of this legal activity was spurred by Connecticut’s decision to allow Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, two transgender sprinters, to compete in the girls’ division even if they’ve never taken any hormones or undergone other medical procedures to reduce their inherent advantages as males. They aren’t turning in any times that would land them at the top of the boys’ division, but they’ve been completely smoking the girls, setting multiple state records.

The resolution of this case is one that many of us have been anticipating. How the courts decide this case and how sweeping of a decision they finally deliver could impact any number of other disputes around the nation related to transgender questions. Ultimately, we’re going to need a final ruling as to whether or not society and the medical profession – above and beyond limited questions of Title IX and public schools – can be forced to abandon our entire history of medical science and concede that someone is the opposite of their biological gender simply because that’s how they “feel.”

Thus far the courts have been almost criminally reluctant to tackle that underlying question, preferring instead to nibble around the edges and rule on things like workplace dress codes and public facilities access. Perhaps this case will be the one that finally breaks the logjam.