County exec sues New York over an order to rescind his ban on transgender female athletes

Mar 6, 2024, 8:03 AM | Updated: 10:46 am

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A Republican official in New York City’s suburbs who prohibited transgender athletes from participating in girls and women’s sports competitions has asked a federal court to affirm that he has the power to implement the ban.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the “cease and desist” letter issued by state Attorney General Letitia James violates the U.S. Constitution’s “equal protection” clause, which is enshrined in the 14th Amendment.

He argued that rescinding his Feb. 22 executive order would deny “biological females’ right to equal opportunities in athletics” as well as their “right to a safe playing field” by exposing them to increased risk of injury if they’re forced to compete against transgender women.

“We set forth this policy was because of unfair competitive advantage that males have,” Blakeman said Wednesday, during a news conference at his office in Mineola. “They’re bigger, faster and stronger. It’s a scientific fact.”

He was joined by a 16-year-old female volleyball player who lives in Nassau County and her parents, who are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

James’ office on Wednesday echoed earlier statements calling the order “transphobic and discriminatory.”

On Friday, James threatened legal action if Blakeman didn’t rescind the order in a week, arguing that the local order violates New York’s anti-discrimination laws and subjects women’s and girls sports teams to “intrusive and invasive questioning” and other unnecessary requirements.

Blakeman on Wednesday countered that federal law supersedes state law.

In any case, he argued, the order does not outright ban transgender individuals from participating in any sports in the county, as transgender female athletes will still be able to play on male or co-ed teams.

“Transgender athletes have many avenues to compete,” he said. “So we’re no precluding anyone, we’re not denying anybody.”

Blakeman said so far, no teams have applied for a permit under the new order, which went into effect immediately, as licensing for seasonal sporting events is just ramping up.

He also said he’s not aware of any local teams trying to field transgender athletes in female sports.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but do we need something to happen before we take action?” Blakeman said. “Absolutely not.”

Blakeman’s order requires any sports teams, leagues, programs or organizations seeking a permit from the county’s parks and recreation department to “expressly designate” whether they are male, female or coed based on their members’ “biological sex at birth.”

It covers more than 100 sites in the densely populated county next to New York City, from ballfields to basketball and tennis courts, swimming pools and ice rinks.

The executive order followed scores of bills enacted in Republican-governed states over the past few years targeting transgender people. ___

Associated Press reporter Michael Hill in Albany, New York contributed to this story.


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County exec sues New York over an order to rescind his ban on transgender female athletes