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New York court strikes down order banning transgender athletes


(The Center Square) — A judge has struck down a New York county’s ban on transgender athletes from participating in female sports, saying the county executive exceeded his authority by issuing the directive.

The ruling by state Supreme Court Judge Francis Ricigliano overturns an executive order signed by Nassau County Chief Executive Bruce Blakeman in February that requires any sports team seeking to use a county facility to provide information on “the biological sex at birth of the team members/participants.”

The order allowed the county to deny permits to female sporting events with transgender participants. It didn’t apply to male teams with transgender athletes.

In the 13-page ruling, Ricigliano said Blakeman didn’t have authority from the Nassau County Legislature, representing the county’s 19 districts, to issue the executive order setting the policy.

“In doing so, this Court finds the County Executive acted beyond the scope of his authority as the Chief Executive Officer of Nassau County,” Ricigliano wrote.

In March, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of a women’s roller derby team, the Long Island Roller Rebels. The plaintiffs argued the ban violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Blakeman criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling rejecting the order, which he has described as “a fairness issue” prompted by concerned parents of female students. He told several media outlets over the weekend that he plans to appeal the decision.

“Lack of courage from a judge who didn’t want to decide the case on its merits,” Blakeman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, girls and women are hurt by the court.”

Amanda Urena, president of the Long Island Roller Rebels, said the decision is “a victory for those who believe that transgender people have the right to participate in sports just like everyone else.”

“County Executive Blakeman’s order tried to punish us just because we believe in inclusion and stand against transphobia,” Urena said. “Trans people belong everywhere, including in sports, and they will not be erased.”

The New York ACLU said it is “gratified that the court saw this order for what it was: a harmful, hateful policy that has no place in New York.”

Blakeman has argued that the order didn’t ban transgender athletes from playing, only that players assigned male at birth would need to play on men’s or co-ed teams, not a team that aligns with their gender identity.

“This is not precluding anybody from participating in sports,” Blakeman told reporters at a February briefing. “What it is, it’s identifying there are women and girls who spent a tremendous amount of time and effort to excel and compete in their sports that are women’s sports.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James threatened to take legal action against the ban after her office issued a cease-and-desist letter to Blakeman saying the order violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Blakeman filed a federal lawsuit to block James from intervening in the dispute, but his legal challenge was rejected.

The legal fight has garnered national media attention amid an ongoing debate over trans women competing in women’s sports, which has become an issue in the upcoming presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump has said he would repeal a new Biden administration policy that offers protections for transgender students under the Title IX federal civil rights law if he is elected in November.

In April, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a bill banning transgender athletes whose biological sex assigned at birth was male from competing on female sports teams at federally supported schools and colleges. However, the measure faces an uncertain path in the Democratic-led Senate and a likely veto if it reaches President Joe Biden’s desk.