Nassau Legislature Republicans codify transgender female athlete ban

Nassau Legislature Republicans codify transgender female athlete ban
The Nassau County Legislature voted along party lines Monday to enact a law that bars transgender female athletes from playing on female sports teams at county facilities. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

The Nassau County Legislature approved along party lines a law that codifies County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s executive order barring transgender women and girls from playing on female athletic teams at county facilities.

The law was passed on a 12-6 vote. All Republicans voted in favor and all Democrats, excluding Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D–Glen Cove), who was absent, voted against the law.

The public hearing Monday was contentious throughout the hours-long session, with audience members calling out to the legislators. At times audience members were threatened with being removed if they continued to speak out of turn.

Democrats compared the law to historical instances of fear-mongering used to target other communities and individuals.

“You’re creating a false narrative and promulgated based on fear of a perceived advantage,” Legislator Arnold Drucker (D–Plainview) said.

Drucker called the law a “fatally flawed bill based on fear and speculation.”

“This legislation is a clear contravention of the state of the law and it’s beyond me why this county executive wants to continue squandering taxpayer, hard-earned dollars on legal fees defending this proposed law,” Drucker said.

Republicans countered that the legislation is not in opposition to transgender people and is not an entire ban to prevent them from playing sports. They continuously argued that transgender women have a competitive advantage against female athletes.

Blakeman signed an executive order in February that prohibited transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams that play at Nassau County facilities.

The law does not prevent transgender men and boys from competing on male teams.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a cease-and-desist order in response to the executive order. Her office claimed the executive order was discriminatory and violated human and civil rights laws.

The State Supreme Court struck down the executive order in May after the New York Civil Liberties Union and a Long Island roller derby team filed a lawsuit against the order.

The order was abolished in court on the basis that Blakeman did not have the authority to issue it without legislative action.

Victoria LaGreca, a lawyer with the county attorney’s office, presented and defended the bill during the hearing Monday afternoon.

Drucker questioned LaGreca on whether or not transgender people are considered a protected class under New York State human rights law, which LaGreca affirmed they are.

LaGreca said the state law is “diametrically opposed” to the federal law which protects women.

Drucker asked then whether the public policy concerns override the human rights protections, which LaGreca denied.

LaGreca said the state is able to expand protections to other classes, as it has for transgender people, but that it cannot be at the expense of other protected classes. In this law’s case, LaGreca argued that transgender protections come at the cost of protections for women.

Another argument made for the law is that transgender athletes will take scholarships, college sports opportunities and accolades away from other female athletes. Drucker asked if this is happening in Nassau County, which LaGreca affirmed it is not.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not an issue,” LaGreca said.

“It’s not an issue in Nassau County, is it?” Drucker said in response.

LaGreca said the law would protect injuries against female athletes by transgender athletes. She provided four examples of such injuries, but none from Nassau County. Democrats argued that this showed a lack of need for the law in the county.

“Is the new standard now that we have to wait?” Legislator John Ferretti Jr. (R–Levittown) asked. “We have to wait for a young woman to be playing volleyball with a biological male and have the volleyball spiked into her face, have multiple neck surgeries, concussions and life-long injuries? We have to wait for that?”

Debra Mulé (D–Freeport) asked LaGreca for the data on female athletes being injured by other female athletes, which LaGreca said she did not have. Mule questioned LaGreca’s, and the law’s, causal relationship between transgender athletes and injuries.

“It seems that you’re making a leap of logic,” Mule said

Legislator Rose Marie Walker (R–Hicksville) suggested a transgender athlete league should be established instead.

Drucker said there are lawsuits ready to be filed in response to this law and condemned the use of taxpayer money to defend a law he said will be overturned in courts.

Audience members chanted “shame” and “this is how it starts,” in reference to historical events that fostered fear and discrimination against certain groups.

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