Arkansas Students Seek to Intervene in Challenge to Federal Transgender Sports Policy

“The Biden administration’s radical push to redefine sex in federal law has widespread impact and specifically threatens female athletes," stated Ryan Bangert, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Cate Ford, one of the intervenor-plaintiffs in The State of Tennessee v. United States Department of Education
Cate Ford, one of the intervenor-plaintiffs in The State of Tennessee v. United States Department of Education (photo: Alliance Defending Freedom / Alliance Defending Freedom)

WASHINGTON — Three female athletes and a Christian education association are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its transgender athletics policy.

The Department of Education in June announced that it would interpret existing federal civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The policy would apply to federally-funded education programs, opening up many women’s sports and women’s facilities at schools to biological males identifying as transgender females.

In response, 20 state attorneys general sued over the policy. On Monday, the Association of Christian Schools International and three female athletes in Arkansas filed a motion in a federal court to intervene in the lawsuit. The group Alliance Defending Freedom represents the athletes as well as the association of evangelical and Protestant schools, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“The Biden administration’s radical push to redefine sex in federal law has widespread impact and specifically threatens female athletes. This undermines one of the driving purposes of Title IX to promote equality for women in athletics, and it jeopardizes the safety of female athletes by allowing physically stronger, faster, and larger males to compete on women’s teams,” stated Ryan Bangert, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field, and states, schools, and individuals across America are rightly stepping up to safeguard equal athletic opportunity for female students,” he said.

The three female athletes seeking to intervene in the case are Anna Scarborough, a senior soccer player at Brookland High School, as well as Cate Ford, a senior basketball, tennis, and track athlete at Brookland High, and Amelia Ford, an eighth grade basketball and volleyball player at Brookland Junior High School.

Their motion argues that Title IX – the federal civil rights policy that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education activities – was specifically meant to ensure girls and boys had an equal opportunity in sports.

“Female athletes deserve the chance to compete on a safe, equal playing field,” the motion states, arguing that the administration’s rule “by executive fiat” would “erase women’s sports and eliminate the opportunities for women that Title IX was intended to protect.”

In January, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order stating his administration's policy of interpreting sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Education Department’s interpretation of Title IX in June stems from this order.

At his confirmation hearing in February, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that student-athletes identifying as transgender should be allowed to play sex-specific sports according to their gender identity and not biological sex.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference in 2017 began allowing student-athletes to compete in sports based on their preferred gender identity. Four female track athletes sued, arguing that the policy put them at a disadvantage when competing against biological males. Two males identifying as transgender females had competed in and won a combined 15 state female track titles following the policy change in 2017. A federal court in April tossed out the girls' lawsuit.

Holcomb said that Gianforte and the state legislature “have acted to preserve a level playing field for all female athletes in the state, whether in high school or college.”

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In a statement, Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said, “Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.”