The Civil Rights of Transgender Athletes competing in Connecticut Public Schools

In recent weeks, national attention has pivoted towards Connecticut after parents of student athletes began two separate petitions to change the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) bylaws regulating the participation of transgender athletes in high school athletics. Claiming that transgender athletes have an unfair biological advantage, the petitions want the rules to require transgender athletes to undergo hormone therapy in order to compete.

Article IX, Section B of the CIAC bylaws currently states that athletes are allowed to compete on the team that best conforms to their gender identity. This rule is in compliance with state law. Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-64(a) (1) state that it is unlawful to deny any person “full and equal accommodations in any place of public accommodation” on the basis of their gender identity or expression. More specifically, Connecticut General Statutes § 10-15c state that “students in public schools must not be denied, on the basis of their gender identity or expression, an equal opportunity to participate in the public school activities, programs, and courses of study for which they are otherwise eligible.” Gender identity or expression is defined under Connecticut General Statutes §46a-51(21) as a person’s “gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior”, regardless of whether that identity matches the person’s assigned sex at birth, and need only be demonstrated by any evidence that the identity is sincerely held.

If CIAC were to change its bylaws in the manner that these petitions request, CIAC would be in violation of Connecticut state law, as it would require transgender athletes to make an effort that exceeds what is otherwise legally required to identify as transgender.

As the state debates this issue, municipal employees working in scholastic athletics in the meantime must ensure that statements they make cannot be misconstrued as to suggest discriminatory intent and that all athletes competing continue to have full access to teams.

Fundamentally, transgender athletes in the state have the right to compete on the teams that best match their gender identity, without having any extra burden placed upon them. The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities exists to protect these rights, and will do so within the extent of the law.

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