Blakeman's trans ban struck down in court

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Blakeman's trans ban struck down in 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)

A New York judge struck down Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s order banning transgender girl and women athletes from practicing on girls' and women's teams at county facilities May 10 following a lawsuit filed by a Massapequa women’s roller derby league.

State Supreme Court Justice Francis Ricigliano ruled that the county executive did not have the authority to issue such an order in a 13-page decision. The ruling said the right to enact such a law is reserved for legislative bodies.

“Lack of courage from a judge who didn’t want to decide the case on its merits,” Blakeman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, girls and women are hurt by the court.”

Blakeman told The New York Times that he would appeal the judge's decision.

Blakeman signed his executive order into effect on Feb. 22, forcing transgender girls and women athletes to compete in the leagues that correlate with their sex assigned at birth at county facilities, meaning boys’ and men’s teams or co-ed teams. The executive order did not affect transgender boys and men, since Blakeman said there is no fairness issue when transgender boy and men athletes compete on boys’ and men’s teams.

The order was challenged by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Long Island Roller Robels in a lawsuit they filed March 11 against Blakeman.

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

The suit called Blakeman’s executive order “discriminatory” and “unlawful,” arguing that it violated New York’s Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law as well as guidance from the state Education Department.

The New York State Education Department prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. When it comes to gender-segregated physical activities, the state guidelines say: “Students should be allowed to participate in a manner most consistent with their gender identity without penalty.”

The Long Island Roller Rebels currently have at least one league member who would be prohibited from participating in their league under the executive order, according to the lawsuit.

The Roller Rebels have historically used Nassau County facilities for their events, including outdoor skating rinks at Eisenhower Park and Cedar Creek Park, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also states that as an inclusive women’s league, the Roller Rebels do not inquire about players’ sex assigned at birth, which they would be required to do under the order.

The Roller Rebels would be denied permits to use Nassau County facilities for their events if they did not begin inquiring about players’ sex assigned at birth under the executive order. The league hosts games, practices and annual charity games.

“Today’s decision is a victory for those who believe that transgender people have the right to participate in sports just like everyone else. It sends a strong message that transphobic discrimination cannot stand,” Long Island Roller Rebels President Curly Fry said in a statement. “As a league welcoming trans women and committed to providing a safe space for everyone to be their full selves, County Executive Blakeman’s order tried to punish us just because we believe in inclusion and stand against transphobia.”

After Blakeman signed the executive order in February, New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a cease-and-desist letter to Blakeman demanding that he rescind the order.

“We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” James said. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal.”

In response, Blakeman and the Floral Park parents of a 16-year-old girls’ volleyball player filed a federal lawsuit against James. The suit argued that the county has a constitutional right to protect women and girls from unfair competition and personal injury.

District Court Judge Nusrat Choudhury dismissed Blakeman’s lawsuit against the attorney general in April on the grounds that the county executive could not prevent James from challenging the executive order.

James called the May 10 decision a “major victory” on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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