HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is not willing to lose federal education dollars over a state policy that allows transgender athletes to participate as girls in high school sports, he said Thursday.
The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights last month said the Connecticut policy, which allows all athletes to participate as the gender with which they identify, violates the civil rights of non-transgender girls and threatened to withhold federal funding from some school districts.
The governor's office said it has had multiple discussions about the issue with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the board that oversees high school athletics.
“I don't want to lose any federal funds, that's for sure,” Lamont said Thursday. “I'm looking at the NCAA. I'm looking at the Olympics. I'm seeing how those organizations handle this very delicate issue of somebody who identifies with a gender that they weren't necessarily born with and I think we've got to work through that.”
The civil rights office said in a 45-page letter dated May 15 that the policy is a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women and has “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits."
The office said it will “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the conference and those districts or refer the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The dispute, already the subject of a federal lawsuit, centers on two transgender sprinters who have frequently outperformed their competitors, winning a combined 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.
The ACLU’s lawyers for the transgender athletes have argued both are undergoing hormone treatments that have put them on an equal footing with the girls they are competing against.
Connecticut is one of 18 states, along with Washington, D.C., that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to Transathlete.com.
Several other states have polices barring the participation of transgender athletes, and Idaho recently became the first to pass a law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports.
The ACLU and Legal Voice filed a federal lawsuit contending that law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.