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Supporters of fairness for women athletes get tripped up by legislators and federal judges


“…polls show that a majority of Americans agree that the competition is no longer fair when males are permitted to compete in women’s sports. Every woman deserves the respect and dignity that comes with having an equal opportunity to excel and win in athletics…”


Advocates for basic fairness in women’s sports were dealt two major defeats last week, one in the Ohio statehouse and the other in a U.S. appeals court.

Quick Facts

Legislation that would have stopped males from playing women’s sports narrowly failed to pass the Ohio House of Representatives on Thursday. House Bill 151 would have banned biological males from participating in sports designed for biological females. House Bill 151 passed the House in June, but the Senate folded it in with Senate Bill 178, which would have stripped the State Board of Education of most of its power and given control of education policy to the governor. The Senate passed the bill 23-7, but it then failed to pass the House.

Republican Rep. Jena Powell has made several attempts to get a law passed that would bar males who identify as women from competing in sports intended for biological women. “All these girls ask for is a fair shot, and to be given the chance to play and win by the rules in the sports that they love,” Powell said. “The opportunity is being ripped from them by biological males.”

Gov. Mike Dewine, R, spoke against the amendment and has said legislators do not need to address it, saying,

 “This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations, including the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who can tailor policies to meet the needs of their member athletes and member institutions.”

The Ohio High School Athletic Association has no plans to change its policies.

The legislative failure in Ohio came shortly after the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against four girls who had filed suit in the case of Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, claiming that the state violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Chelsea Mitchell, Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti all lost championships, medals, or opportunities to compete and get college scholarships because biological males outperformed them. Two males who say they are transgender started competing in girls’ high school track in 2017 and began shattering female race records. Mitchell lost four state championships to the males.

Despite the losses, the Second Circuit refused to stop Connecticut from allowing males to compete in women’s sports, affirming a lower district court decision against the girls. The judges explained, “…we conclude that the CIAC and its member schools did not have adequate notice that the Policy violates Title IX….”

Christiana Kiefer, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the female athletes, said in a statement:

“The 2nd Circuit got it wrong, and we’re evaluating all legal options, including appeal. Our clients—like all female athletes—deserve access to fair competition. Thankfully, a growing number of states are stepping up to protect women’s athletics. Right now, 18 states have enacted laws that protect women and girls from having to compete against males, and polls show that a majority of Americans agree that the competition is no longer fair when males are permitted to compete in women’s sports. Every woman deserves the respect and dignity that comes with having an equal opportunity to excel and win in athletics, and ADF remains committed to protecting the future of women’s sports.”

Actually, the Second Circuit got it completely wrong: Behavior is not biology. Choosing to act like a woman is not the same as actually being a woman.

This is one more example of judicial activism influenced by ideology, not the law. Title IX is specifically about the protection of women and never once says anything about discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In fact, both the district court’s ruling and the Second Circuit’s affirmation of it only perverts the meaning and intent of that law and, if their reasoning holds throughout society, there soon will be two different categories of competition: A category dominated by the fastest and strongest men and a category dominated by slower and weaker men who choose to run against women.

To underscore this point, consider the case of a male cross country runner in Washington State who finished 72nd in the Emerald South Conference Championships. This year, having announced his new gender identity and running as a female, that same athlete finished first in the women’s race, breaking a school record.

And why wouldn’t he? Not only can males jump from men’s competition to women’s on a whim in Washington State, they don’t even have to take medication to suppress their testosterone, which supposedly lessens the unfair physical advantage males have, though it clearly doesn’t eliminate it as evidenced by the famous case of William Thomas.

Thomas, who competed as an NCAA swimmer against men for three years and was never remotely competitive at any distance, with his best ranking being 65th in the 500-yard freestyle, began identifying as a female and taking estrogen to reduce his testosterone levels. But this winter, the 6 foot-three-inch, broad-shouldered, decidedly un-curvy “Lia” Thomas crushed the country’s best women swimmers by nearly two seconds in the 500-yard national college championships.

To believe that this represents fair competition is as delusional as believing that the Washington State runner and William Thomas have somehow morphed into actual women by dint of simply wishing it were so. Whether they have true gender dysphoria or not, both want to win so badly that they are willing to cheat to do it. But cheating is not winning.

Whether it’s a biological man competing against women, an adult competing against children, a heavyweight competing against a flyweight, or an athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs to gain an advantage, breaking the rules for personal gain is fraud, and therefore both a form of theft and oppression. The Bible is filled with warnings against it. Proverbs 10:2 says that “Ill-gotten treasures profit nothing, but righteousness brings deliverance from death.” Proverbs 16:8 states that it is “better to have little, with godliness, than to be rich and dishonest.”

We know what this kind of cheating is costing women. We can only pray that one day these same biological men who have chosen to compete against physically weaker opponents will realize what they’ve done and deeply regret that they pursued medals and glory at the cost of their own integrity and sense of human decency.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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