New York County Bans Sports Teams With Trans Women And Girls From Athletic Facilities

Lawmakers in a New York county passed legislation on Monday that would ban female sports teams from using athletic facilities unless they exclude transgender women and girls ― the latest move in the nationwide Republican-led effort to block transgender people from playing sports on teams that align with their gender identity.

According to the legislation in Nassau County, which mostly makes up suburban Long Island, whoever is in charge of organizing girls’ or women’s sports events would be required to ask each member of the involved teams what sex they were assigned at birth. Any teammates who were not assigned female at birth would be expelled. The law would not apply to Nassau County’s boys’ and men’s sports teams or male-female teams.

The legislation was passed 12-5 by the county’s GOP-controlled legislature, which before the vote heard from more than a dozen people who opposed the proposed ban. Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, is expected to sign it into law.

“This is banning people from government property. Let’s think very carefully before we do that,” Susan Gottehrer, director of the Nassau County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said during a public comment period. “We will see you in court.”

Nassau County lawyer Victoria LaGreca was called to defend the bill before lawmakers, listing four cases in which cisgender girls were injured while competing in sports alongside transgender girls. None of the examples had occurred in New York, and LaGreca said she did not know how many instances there were of cisgender girls causing injuries while competing in sports.

Though New York’s human rights law includes protections for transgender people, LaGreca argued that the law was “diametrically opposed to federal law to protect women,” referring to Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs. 

But the Department of Education says that Title IX prohibits sex discrimination based on transgender status, including bans on transgender athletes. And some organizations that support equality in women’s sports, including for transgender athletes, have pushed back on LaGreca’s argument. 

“It bears repeating that this continuing false rhetoric taking hold is a distraction to the real threats to girls and women in sports, including lack of Title IX understanding and compliance; inequity in compensation, resources sponsorship and media attention; and harassment and abuse of female athletes and women working in sports,” the Women’s Sports Foundation said in a March 2021 statement responding to a similar argument.

“Sports participation provides invaluable and life-changing aspects that are equally important to transgender girls ― it can help break down barriers, create understanding and provide a place to belong,” the group said. “We believe humanity wins when all girls and women, including transgender girls and women, have the opportunity to play.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman speaks on March 6 in Mineola, New York. The Nassau County Legislature, on Long Island, voted Monday to bar transgender female athletes from playing on girls' and women's teams at county-owned facilities after a bid to restrict trans athletes by executive order was thrown out in court.

Earlier this year, Blakeman tried to impose the ban through an executive order. But it was immediately challenged by New York Attorney General Letitia James, as well as a local women’s roller-derby team that welcomes “all transgender women, intersex women and gender expansive participants.”

“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 in a March 1 statement. “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.”

A New York judge threw out the executive order, ruling last month that Blakeman did not have the authority to impose the ban on using county-owned facilities ― a move the county official is appealing ― and that only a legislative body could pass such a measure.

James’ office declined HuffPost’s request Tuesday for comment about the Nassau County Legislature’s vote because it had not yet been signed into law.