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Justice Department withdraws support from case challenging rules for transgender student athletes

Washington — The Justice Department on Wednesday told a federal court in Connecticut it is withdrawing its support for a lawsuit filed by three high school students in the state challenging rules involving transgender student-athletes.

In a short filing with the U.S. district court, the Biden administration said "the government has reconsidered the matter and hereby notifies the Court that it withdraws its Statement of Interest."

The case was brought last year by three high school students who compete in interscholastic girls' track and field in Connecticut. The student-athletes argued a policy from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allowing students to compete in athletic competitions according to their gender identity violates Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by institutions that receive federal dollars.

As a result of the new rules from the Connecticut body, two transgender athletes were allowed to compete in girls' track meets beginning in the 2017 season. But the students argued they were being denied opportunities to participate in state and regional meets and access to collegiate scholarships, as they were competing against transgender girls who have an athletic advantage.

In March 2020, the Trump administration filed a statement of interest signed by then-Attorney General William Barr in the case expressing support for the students challenging the policy.

"Title IX and its implementing regulations prohibit discrimination solely 'on the basis of sex,' not on the basis of transgender status, and therefore neither require nor authorize CIAC's transgender policy," the Justice Department under the prior administration told the court. "To the contrary, CIAC's construction of Title IX as requiring the participation of students on athletic teams that reflect their gender identity would turn the statute on its head."

But President Biden signed on his first day in office an executive order focused on "preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation." 

"Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports," the executive order states.

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