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Nassau County exec sues New York AG Letitia James for the right to ban trans girls from sports

A women's sports team wearing red jerseys in a huddle
Photo: Shutterstock

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced on Wednesday that he has filed a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James to protect his transgender sports ban.

On February 22, Blakeman issued an executive order that immediately banned trans women from participating on women’s sports teams. On March 1, James responded by stating that the executive order is discriminatory and illegal. Her office sent a cease-and-desist letter to Blakeman’s office, giving him five days to rescind the executive order.

“The law is perfectly clear: you cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression. We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” said James. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal. Nassau County must immediately rescind the order, or we will not hesitate to take decisive legal action.”

The executive order will impact over 100 athletic centers across Long Island, requiring every member of an athletic team to designate their sex assigned at birth.

Blakeman’s lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Blakeman cites the 14th Amendment and Title IX in his defense. The 14th Amendment, which extended the applicability of the Bill of Rights to state governments, features an Equal Protection Clause, which Blakeman argues only applies to women and not transgender people. Title IX further enshrines the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex, which Blakeman uses to argue that the integration of trans women discriminates against cisgender women. Courts have already found that anti-transgender discrimination can be a form of discrimination on the basis of sex, including in the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton Co.

His lawsuit further argues that Human Rights Law in the state does not extend to transgender people. In New York, the Human Rights Law safeguards protected classes from discrimination, and gender identity is included explicitly as one of these protected classes. However, sports is not explicitly mentioned as a context in which these protections may apply.

The lawsuit additionally includes the Mullen family as plaintiffs. They claim their 16-year-old daughter, who plays volleyball, may be subject to harm if she has to play with a transgender girl.

In a press conference earlier this week, Blakeman stated regarding his executive order, “We don’t want 6-foot, 210-pound males competing against women and girls who are not that big, they’re not that strong. That’s an unfair competition. It’s dangerous. And we also don’t want biological males in the same locker rooms as biological females.”

In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for James said to Gothamist, “This is not up for debate: the executive order is illegal, and it will not stand in New York.”

James has a history of defending the LGBTQ+ community. She hosted Drag Story Hour at an LGBTQ+ community center after a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ protests and has signed an amicus brief with 18 other attorneys general urging the Colorado Supreme Court to rule in favor of a trans person who was allegedly discriminated against by Masterpiece Cakeshop. She has also condemned acts of hate such as the burning of pride flags.

Blakeman defended his lawsuit by claiming it is not discriminatory, citing that transgender girls are still allowed on men’s teams, co-ed teams, or even on their own, transgender-only teams.

Gabriella Larios said in a statement to ABC 7 NY that the New York Civil Liberties Union is considering legal options for this case, citing the danger that this lawsuit poses to transgender people.

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