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 Michael Goodin / The Daily Signal

MANHATTAN, Connecticut (LifeSiteNews) – A group of female athletes does have standing to sue the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) over its decision that forced them to compete against biological males who claim to be “trans women,” the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is suing CIAC on behalf of former high school track athletes Selina Soule, Alana Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Ashley Nicoletti. CIAC’s official handbook says the conference “shall defer to the determination of the student and his or her local school regarding gender identification,” without any conditions pertaining to physical transitions or testosterone levels. This has led to biologically male competitors consistently outperforming actual females and depriving them of numerous opportunities, according to the lawsuit.

Last December, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled against the female runners, upholding a prior decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that they had allegedly failed to adequately demonstrate both “injury” and their entitlement to compensatory damages. But in February, the court announced that a majority of its active judges voted for the case to be reheard by the full court.

Now, a majority of the 15 judges have determined that the case may go forward and that the athletes could qualify for monetary damages, the Associated Press reported.

ADF attorney Roger Brooks called the development a victory “not only for the women who have been deprived of medals, potential scholarships, and other athletic opportunities, but for all female athletes across the country,” and welcomes the opportunity to argue the issue on the merits.

The far-left American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing the opposite side of the case on behalf of two “trans” runners whose athletic records could potentially be affected by a ruling in favor of the actual girls, says that they too welcome their day in court.

Mandatory inclusion of gender-confused individuals in opposite-sex sports is promoted as a matter of “inclusivity,” but critics note that indulging “transgender” athletes undermines the original rational basis for having sex-specific athletics in the first place, thereby depriving female athletes of recognition and professional or academic opportunities. 

There have been numerous high-profile examples in recent years of men winning women’s competitions, and research affirms that physiology gives males distinct athletic advantages that cannot be fully negated by hormone suppression.

In a 2019 paper published by the Journal of Medical Ethics, New Zealand researchers found that “healthy young men [do] not lose significant muscle mass (or power) when their circulating testosterone levels were reduced to (below International Olympic Committee guidelines) for 20 weeks,” and “indirect effects of testosterone” on factors such as bone structure, lung volume, and heart size “will not be altered by hormone therapy;” therefore, “the advantage to transwomen [biological men] afforded by the [International Olympic Committee] guidelines is an intolerable unfairness.”

In the United States, the various aspects of the issue have been highlighted by University of Pennsylvania swimmer William “Lia” Thomas, who reportedly retains male genitalia and is still attracted to women yet “identifies” as female and lesbian. Thomas quickly started dominating women’s swimming after switching from the men’s team and has caused his female teammates unrest due to sharing lockers with them. Yet the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has reportedly pressured swimmers and their parents against speaking out.

Signing and enacting the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act are part of a broader proactive conservative record from DeSantis focused on parental rights, educational accountability, and resistance to indoctrination in so-called “woke ideology” across public and private institutions. DeSantis is currently running on that record for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.