These 2 Athletes Were Being Used to Justify the Wave of Anti-Trans Bills

But a judge just tossed out the lawsuit against them.
In this Feb. 7, 2019 file photo, Cromwell High School track coach Brian Calhoun, left, speaks to transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood during a break at a meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut.

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A Connecticut lawsuit used by anti-trans legislators as evidence of the need to push bills targeting young transgender athletes has been dismissed—because, according to the judge, the whole case is moot.

Filed last year by four cisgender female high school students across the state, the lawsuit sought to block two trans female runners from participating in track. The students were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit that’s been dubbed an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The lawsuit argued that, because Connecticut lets high school students play the sports that match their gender identity, cis runners were being deprived of the chance to win.

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But in a filing Sunday, Judge Robert Chatigny pointed out that the two trans athletes named as defendants—Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller—have since graduated high school. And the students who brought the lawsuit haven’t been able to find other trans athletes who could replace them as defendants. The case, Chatigny declared, has no way forward.

Supporters of bills meant to block trans athletes from participating in sports that align with their gender identity have tended to struggle to produce any evidence that trans athletes are overrunning sports teams. But that hasn’t stopped state legislators from introducing these bills: They’ve been introduced in at least 31 states this year and signed into law in at least three.

In March, the Associated Press surveyed two dozen of the legislators behind these anti-trans bills and found that most were unable to “cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.” Some, however, pointed to the Connecticut case. 

“It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B—absolutely none,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the AP. Less than 2 percent of all high school students identify as trans, a 2019 CDC survey found.

But that Exhibit A might even be built on flimsy ground. One of the students who sued over Connecticut’s policy, Chelsea Mitchell, ended up beating Miller in their final races in February 2020.

“It’s discouraging that the court ruled to dismiss my right to compete on a level playing field,” Mitchell said in a statement, according to Courthouse News. “No girl should have to settle into her starting blocks knowing that, no matter how hard she works, she doesn’t have a fair shot at victory.”

“This is yet another sign that lawmakers attacking trans youth in states around the country have no legal basis for their claims. When Andraya and Terry ran in high school, they belonged on the girls’ teams because they are girls,” Joshua Block, the senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement about the judge’s dismissal. “They benefited from being on a team, working to better themselves and having an escape from the rest of their days—the same things that anyone else benefits from when playing sports.”