‘Fair And Safe Competition’: How One Legal Group Is Leading The Charge To Protect Women’s Sports

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  • Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is currently juggling several legal cases intended to prohibit biological male athletes from competing in female sports.
  • ADF intervened to defend several laws in states across the country to protect women’s sports that are being challenged in court.
  • “I am incredibly proud of our clients and their willingness to be a voice, not just to protect and defend themselves, but to defend future generations of female athletes, as well,” ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A legal organization is gearing up to defend female athletes across the country as the debate over whether to allow transgender participation in women’s sports steamrolls ahead.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is currently juggling several legal cases defending female athletes who have personally competed against men who identify as women, ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Each case intends to prohibit biological men from being allowed to compete in female-only divisions and defend those athletes who have lost opportunities because of policies which permit athletes to compete as the opposite gender.

“The end goal is to, first and foremost, protect the integrity of women’s sports and ensure that girls like our clients have fair and safe competition,” Kiefer said.

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In 2020, ADF filed in Connecticut the first federal lawsuit to defend female athletes under Title IX, Kiefer explained. The plaintiffs, four female athletes, allegedly lost track & field opportunities because two males were permitted to compete in the girls’ division.

“In the state of Connecticut, those two males athletes won, over the course of their high school career, 15 women state championship titles, which I think just really underscores how devastating it was for young women across the state of Connecticut to be forced to compete against, bigger, faster and stronger male athletes,” Kiefer explained.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in December that the athletes’ complaint lacked standing since they competed in high school championship meets. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which defends the male athletes, called the plaintiffs’ complaints “zero-sum arguments” and called the decision a “victory for fairness, equality, and inclusion,” according to its press release.

Kiefer told the DCNF the case is “currently pending” and that the law inspired lawmakers across the country to begin enacting laws to prohibit men and boys from competing as women and girls. To date, 18 states have laws on the books to designate athletic competition must be segregated by sex — and ADF has defended laws in three of the states in court.

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Idaho in 2020 after it became the first state to adopt a law to protect women’s sports, to which ADF intervened “on behalf of two collegiate runners, both of whom have also competed against and lost to a male athlete in their track and cross country competition,” Kiefer told the DCNF. The case, Hecox v. Little, is “also currently ongoing and is up at the ninth circuit on appeal,” she said.

ADF also intervened after the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging West Virginia’s women’s sports law. The federal court ruled in January the law was “both constitutional and consistent with Title IX,” Kiefer said, and permitted the law to stand.

The ACLU appealed the decision and B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education will face the fourth circuit “shortly,” according to Kiefer. ADF also requested to intervene on behalf of female athlete and Florida college student Selina Soule to defend the state’s women’s sports law, however the case is currently “at the very early stages.”

“It’s important for our laws and policies to recognize that there are real, physical differences between the sexes, and when we try to erase those differences and ignore them, in certain context like sports, privacy, women’s shelters and domestic abuse safe houses, women and girls are the ones who lose the most,” Kiefer told the DCNF.

The concern over male athletes competing in women’s sports gained traction during the 2021-2022 academic year when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won a women’s national championship after having previously competed on the men’s team. While a majority of Americans reportedly oppose men competing in women’s sports, Kiefer said that one of the biggest challenges is getting female athletes to speak out.

“It’s a really scary thing to put yourself out there and to risk being labeled all sorts of hateful names, to be attacked on social media,” Kiefer said. “I am incredibly proud of our clients and their willingness to be a voice, not just to protect and defend themselves, but to defend future generations of female athletes, as well.”

The ACLU did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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