NY court strikes down Nassau County order that banned transgender athletes from competing on girls’ sports teams

A New York judge struck down an executive order banning transgender athletes from competing in girls’ or women’s sports leagues and teams at Nassau County facilities on Long Island.

Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Francis Ricigliano found on Friday Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman did not have the authority to issue such an order, according to court filings.

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

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

Civil rights groups lauded the court decision, saying it struck down a harmful policy. But the judge did not rule on whether the order violated state civil or human rights law, instead ruling on a technical issue about authority.

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

He told The New York Times on Saturday he would appeal. The executive told CNN affiliate News 12, “Lack of courage from a judge who didn’t want to decide the case on its merits. Unfortunately girls and women are hurt by the court.”

The executive order banned transgender girls from playing on 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 on Nassau County’s all-boys or coed leagues, immediately brought 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 from Nassau County, arguing the executive order violates New York’s human rights law and civil rights law, according to a news release from the NYCLU.

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

Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman announced the executive order on February 22, 2024. - Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman
Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman announced the executive order on February 22, 2024. - Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman

The roller derby league, which is inclusive of transgender women, was prevented from accessing facilities within Nassau County due to the executive order, according to the NYCLU release.

“We are gratified the court has struck down a harmful policy that belongs in the dustbin of history,” said Gabriella Larios, staff attorney at the NYCLU, 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 issue of finding balance between inclusion and fair play has remained a struggle over the past few years for regulatory bodies overseeing high-level sports, and the effects have impacted recreational sports at the local level.

Blakeman earlier this year outlined why he issued the exec utive order.

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

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

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

James wrote on X, “In New York, it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression.”

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

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