More than 150 athletes, including tennis legend Billie Jean King and World Cup soccer champion Megan Rapinoe, on Thursday joined together in putting their support behind allowing transgender female athletes to participate in sports teams.
The 155 female athletes joined the WNBA, the Women's Sports Foundation and the Athlete Ally LGBTQ nonprofit group in adding their names to a court brief filed by Lambda Legal on Thursday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The civil rights organization is urging the court to uphold a lower court's decision earlier this year to dismiss a challenge to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s rule that allows transgender student athletes to participate in school sports.
Athletes from all over the world added their names to the amicus brief, such as German tennis player Meike Babel and Canadian basketball player Natalie Achonwa.
As Lamba Lega wrote in its brief, these athletes "maintain that participation in athletics was essential to their development as leaders and individuals.
"There is no place in any sport for discrimination of any kind,” King said in a statement. “I'm proud to support all transgender athletes who simply want the access and opportunity to compete in the sport they love. The global athletic community grows stronger when we welcome and champion all athletes – including LGBTQI+ athletes."
"Sports is a critical and beneficial part of the school experience for many students. Athletic participation provides unparalleled opportunities to forge a sense of belonging, connectedness, and contribution," Lambda Legal wrote in its brief. "The benefits of sports extend to all aspects of school and throughout life. But these benefits are diminished when some athletes are excluded because of who they are."
The suit that Lambda Legal is opposing was originally filed in February of this year by three high school girls who participate in track and field in Connecticut. They claimed in their suit that their "dreams and goals" were being threatened due to the decision to allow transgender athletes to participate.
In their suit, the plaintiffs repeatedly referred to the transgender athletes as "boys" and claimed that they were stealing opportunities from them. In April, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal in May.
Numerous GOP-controlled state legislatures have passed legislation this year banning transgender athletes from participating in sports teams that align with their gender identity. States such as Alabama, Mississippi, Montana and Tennessee have all passed bills effectively banning transgender students athletes from participating in sports.