Respect Equality

Conservative group files Title IX complaint against UPenn over Lia Thomas controversy

(John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Story at a glance

  • A conservative, evangelical Christian group has filed a civil rights complaint against the University of Pennsylvania for allowing Lia Thomas, a transgender woman on the university’s swim team, to compete against cisgender women.
  • The complaint filed by Concerned Women for America claims that the university by letting Thomas compete has violated federal law.
  • Thomas has been at the center of a contentious national debate over whether transgender women and girls should be allowed to compete on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Concerned Women for America (CWA), a conservative, evangelical Christian organization, has filed a civil rights complaint against the University of Pennsylvania for allegedly failing to protect the rights of collegiate female athletes by allowing Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, to compete on the university’s women’s team.

“The future of women’s sports is at risk and the equal rights of female athletes are being infringed,” Penny Nance, president and chief executive of CWA, said Thursday in a statement. “We filed a formal civil rights complaint against UPenn in response to this injustice.”

“Any school that defies federal civil rights law by denying women equal opportunities in athletic programs, forcing women to compete against athletes who are biologically male must be held accountable,” Nance said.


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The group according to its website “protects and promotes Biblical values and Constitutional principles through prayer, education, and advocacy.”

Thomas, who swam on the university’s men’s team for three years, first made headlines in December after setting national records at a meet in Ohio and last month became an Ivy League champion four-times over after winning all three of her individual events and a team relay.

Thomas on Thursday placed first in the preliminary 500-yard freestyle event during the NCAA finals, paving the way to becoming the first openly transgender women to win a national championship in division I athletics.

In its complaint, CWA deadnames Thomas and claims that she is “anatomically and biologically a male” who is stripping other female athletes of “opportunities afforded to them by law.”

According to the complaint, the University of Pennsylvania violated Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funding, by allowing Thomas to compete, ultimately depriving cisgender women of “career-enhancing opportunities” because of their sex.

“By allowing a male to take a spot and compete on the women’s swim team, depriving aspiring young women athletes of a fair and level playing field in competition, UPenn commits a grave injustice and violates the most fundamental principles of equity in Title IX’s historic efforts to promote equal opportunity in sports in educational institutions,” the complaint reads.

The group in its complaint also calls on the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to “act urgently” against the university “before this abject denial of biological impact and flagrant sex discrimination against female student-athletes affects more and more female students across the country.”


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