James demands Blakeman rescind order on transgender girl athletes; Blakeman challenges in federal court

James demands Blakeman rescind order on transgender girl athletes; Blakeman challenges in federal court
Protestors rally in front of the Nassau County Legislative Building in opposition to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman's ban on transgender women and girl athletes from competing on female sports teams. (Photo by Karen Rubin)

New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a cease-and-desist order against Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman Friday, demanding he rescind his executive order banning transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams at county facilities.

“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,” James said. “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.”

Blakeman said James’ order is “contrary to the law” and stood his ground, claiming the executive order is legal, constitutional and protects women’s rights.

“We believe that not only is the law on our side, but the facts are on our side as well,” Blakeman said, expressing confidence in the order’s legal standing.

The county executive announced Wednesday that he will be filing a “major” federal lawsuit against James in response to the cease-and-desist order.

Blakeman signed an executive order Feb. 22 barring transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams that play at county facilities.

Under the executive order, transgender girl and women athletes will now be forced to compete in the leagues that correlate with their sex assigned at birth, limited to competing only on boys’ and men’s teams or co-ed teams.

The county executive said the purpose of the executive order is to protect women’s and girls’ sports in the county by preventing transgender girls and women athletes from competing, saying transgender women and girls present an unfair advantage.

The ban only applies to transgender girls and women, as Blakeman said there is no advantage for transgender boys and men to compete on boys’ and men’s teams.

Blakeman said that he is not aware of any incidents involving transgender athletes in Nassau County, but that the order is to get the county “ahead of the curve.”

The cease-and-desist letter, signed by the attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau Chief Sandra Park, said the executive order violates New York State anti-discrimination laws in discriminating against transgender women and girls.

Blakeman has five business days to repeal the executive order and provide James’ office with documents related to the order. If not done, her office said further legal action would ensue.

“Nassau County will abide by the law, we will follow the law, we will follow the state and federal constitution,” Blakeman said. “However, there may be a controversy with respect to this matter which may have to be adjudicated at some time in the future.”

James’ office said the executive order encompasses three requirements that “effectively prohibit” transgender girls and women from participating on teams that coincide with their gender.

First, the executive order requires teams to designate themselves as male, female or coed and for players to participate on teams that correlate with their biological sex designated at birth.

James’ office said it also prevents female teams with transgender girls and women from playing at county facilities, yet allows male teams with transgender boys and men to do so.

The AG’s office said the order defines gender as the athlete’s sex assigned at birth and limits the type of birth certificate that can be accepted. New York State laws allow transgender individuals to change the sex designated on their birth certificate upon an application and notarized affidavit from a health-care provider.

“The order’s immediate effect is to force sports leagues to make an impossible choice: discriminate against transgender women and girls, in violation of New York law, or find somewhere else to play,” Park said in the letter.

Blakeman in a statement Friday said the executive order still provides transgender women and girls the ability to participate in sports only on male or co-ed teams. He said the order is not discriminatory because of this.

Park said the order is also an “invasive policing of the sex and gender identity and expression of all girls and women,” constituting discrimination and violating human and civil rights laws.

According to New York State human rights laws, it is illegal for places of public accommodation, such as parks, to discriminate based on sex or gender identity or expression. Park said this also applies to public accommodations owned or operated by a government entity.

This law, according to Park, also prohibits a compulsion for others to discriminate based on sex or gender at these accommodations.

Sex-based discrimination is prohibited under New York State civil rights laws and ​​the Equal Protection Clause in the state’s constitution, Park said.

“These prohibited types of discrimination are exactly what the order imposes on transgender women and girls participating in women and girls’ teams in the county, as well as teams, leagues, and other sports entities and organizations that welcome the participation of transgender women and girls, but which will have to discriminate against them to comply with the Order’s terms,” Park said in the letter.

The Attorney General’s Office claims that the executive order will also be a deterrent to inclusive sports teams and transgender women and girl athletes from beyond Long Island who seek to play in Nassau County sporting events.

Park said the discrimination is perpetuated through the permit requirements of Blakeman’s executive order, which requires teams to comply with the county’s classification of sports teams and the athletes who can compete on them before receiving a permit to play at a county facility.

She said the permit requirement barring transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams will subject athletes to “intrusive and inappropriate inquiries or verification requirements that will harm cisgender and transgender women and girls alike.”

“No New Yorker should feel unwelcome to participate in any event hosted on public property or in public facilities, including sporting events, based on a protected characteristic,” Park said in the letter.

The executive order was met with opposition from Democrats and LGBTQ+ organizations, which denounced Blakeman’s transgender ban and called it out as discriminatory.

In response to James’ demand for the order to be rescinded, many Democrats have also joined in to support the cease-and-desist.

This includes Nassau County Legislature Deputy Minority Leader Arnold Drucker, who called the executive order “unlawful, mean-spirited discrimination.”

“County Executive Blakeman must live up to his oath to protect all Nassau County residents and immediately rescind this order,” Drucker said. “Failing to do so will place Nassau on a collision course with costly litigation that we are likely to lose, and there are so many worthwhile things that we should be spending taxpayers’ hard-earned money on instead of defending this divisive political stunt.”

Despite the outcry, Blakeman said county residents are “overwhelmingly” in favor of the ban.

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