New York court rejects Nassau County order banning trans athletes

By Maria Sole Campinoti, CNN

(CNN) — A New York judge has overturned an executive order banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ or women’s sports leagues and teams at Nassau County facilities on Long Island.

Nassau County Superior Court JudgeFrancis Ricigliano found Friday that Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman did not have the authority to issue such an order, court documents show.

“In doing so, the Court finds that the County Executive acted beyond his authority as Chief Executive Officer of Nassau County,” the ruling said.

Ricigliano ruled that Blakeman could not act without corresponding action from the Nassau County Legislature. It includes representatives from each of the province’s 19 districts.

Civil rights groups praised the court’s ruling, saying it overturned a harmful policy. But the judge did not rule on whether the order violated state civil or human rights law, but ruled on a technical issue about authority.

CNN has reached out to Blakeman’s office for comment but has not yet heard back.

He told The New York Times on Saturday that he would appeal. The director told CNN affiliate News 12: “Lack of courage from a judge who did not want to judge the case on its merits. Unfortunately, girls and women are being hurt by the court.”

The executive order banned transgender girls from playing in sports leagues or teams that advertised themselves as girls’ or women’s leagues or teams if they used county facilities, CNN previously reported.

The executive order, which Blakeman said allowed transgender athletes to compete in Nassau County’s boys or coed leagues, drew immediate backlash from groups supporting LGBTQ+ rights, as well as state officials.

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in March on behalf of the Long Island Roller Rebels, a women’s flat track roller derby league based in Nassau County, arguing that the executive order violates New York’s human and civil rights laws, said a newspaper. release from the NYCLU.

According to the New York State Division of Human Rights, the state’s human rights law was amended in 2019 to include gender identity and expression, including being transgender as a protected class.

The roller derby league, which includes transgender women, was denied access to facilities in Nassau County due to the executive order, the NYCLU release said.

“We are pleased that the court has struck down a harmful policy that belongs in the dustbin of history,” Gabriella Larios, staff attorney at the NYCLU, said in a statement. “The ruling is a serious blow to County Executive Blakeman’s attempt to score cheap political points by spreading harmful stereotypes about transgender women and girls.”

The issue of striking a balance between inclusion and fair play has remained a struggle for regulatory bodies overseeing high-level sports in recent years, and the effects have affected recreational sports at the local level.

Blakeman outlined earlier this year why he issued the executive order.

“It’s just science, and it’s common sense and obvious that a biological male is typically… bigger, faster and stronger than a female competitor. So we didn’t feel the need to ban biological women from competing on male teams,” he said.

A 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine, which reviewed several related studies, found that there is “no direct or consistent research” on transgender people having an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers. Critics say the bans contribute to the discrimination transgender people face, CNN previously reported.

New York Attorney General Letitia James called the decision a “major victory” in a post Friday. on X. In February, James denounced the executive order in a statement as “transphobic and deeply dangerous,” CNN previously reported.

James wrote about X: “In New York, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their gender identity or expression.”

CNN’s Ashley R. Williams and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.

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