- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A group of Congressional Democrats is condemning a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Education that threatens to withhold federal funds over a Connecticut policy allowing transgender girls to compete against non-transgender girls in high school sports.

The group of 28 lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday to Kenneth Marcus, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, questioning the motives and legal reasoning behind the May decision that found Connecticut’s policy is a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women.

“Title IX was never meant to be used as a tool to threaten schools into discriminatory practices in order to preserve critically needed federal funds,” said Connecticut U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, a former national teacher of the year.

The Office for Civil Rights ruled the Connecticut policy, which allows athletes to participate as the gender with which they identity, 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.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont h as said that he is not willing to lose federal funds over the policy and is looking at Olympic and NCAA policies for guidance. Both of those groups require some level of hormone therapy before transgender people are allowed to compete.

But state Attorney General William Tong said Wednesday that Connecticut’s current policy reflects a state law that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.

“The law clearly demands that transgender girls be protected from discrimination in athletics and elsewhere,” he said in a statement.

The civil rights office said it will “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school athletics and the six school districts named in the complaint 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.

The Congressional letter, which was signed six of the seven members of the Connecticut delegation and 22 other congressional Democrats, questions notes that cisgender girls have beaten one of those transgender athletes in 10 different races.

Among other things, the members of Congress have demanded to know why the Department of Education is apparently violating its own policy by not deferring the federal court case.

They have asked for a response by July 1.

An email seeking comment was sent to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, the only member of the Connecticut’s all-Democrat delegation who did not sign the letter.

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