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County executive in New York bans transgender athletes from competing on girls’ sports teams

By Ashley R. Williams and Nic F. Anderson, CNN

(CNN) — An executive order issued in a New York county will ban transgender athletes from competing on girls or women’s sports leagues and teams at county facilities, effective immediately, Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman announced Thursday.

The announcement marks the latest restriction in the United States on transgender athletes’ participation in sports based on their gender identities.

“There are men’s and boys’ leagues, there are women’s and girls’ leagues, and there are coed leagues,” Blakeman said at a Thursday news conference.

Some of the Long Island county’s facilities are used by high schools, private schools, colleges and universities, he said.

“What we are saying here today with our executive order is that if a league or team identifies themselves or advertises themselves to be a girls or women’s league or team, then biological males should not be competing in those leagues,” Blakeman said, adding transgender athletes are still allowed to compete on all-boys or coed leagues in the county.

The order’s announcement brought backlash from groups supporting LGBTQ+ rights as well as state officials, including New York Attorney General Leticia James, who called it “transphobic.”

New York is among 25 states, including New Jersey, California and Georgia, without statewide laws banning transgender students from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identities, according to data from Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank. More than 20 states including Florida, North Carolina and Arkansas have enacted such laws, the project’s data shows.

While most states with bans specifically restrict transgender girls’ participating, some like South Carolina have laws prohibiting both transgender boys and girls from competing on sports teams aligning with their gender identities, according to ESPN.

The Nassau County ban comes as the parks department issues licenses and use permits ahead of summer and will impact sports teams including soccer, swimming, field hockey and lacrosse that utilize county facilities, said Blakeman, who referred to transgender girls and women attempting to participate on girls teams and in women’s leagues as “a form of bullying.”

“We find that unacceptable,” the county executive said, adding the new policy does not apply to biological females who want to play on an all-boys team.

“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.

Sports teams using Nassau County’s facilities will have to fill out a form acknowledging they will adhere to the new policy under the license or operating permit the teams have with the county, according to Blakeman.

Shiwali Patel, director of justice for student survivors and senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said the countywide order is the first of its kind that she is aware of.

But similar sports bans framed around protecting the rights of women and girls in sports often don’t do what they are intended to, according to Patel.

“If these lawmakers and policymakers wanted to address actual gender inequities and sports, they could address the fact that there are over a million fewer sports opportunities for high school girls compared to high school boys,” Patel told CNN.

“They can address the fact that women and girls sports teams are receiving second-class funding and resources compared to men and boys sports teams, or the fact that sexual harassment and assault against student athletes is so pervasive.”

New York attorney general calls order ‘deeply dangerous’

The order’s announcement brought backlash from groups supporting LGBTQ+ rights, such as the Brooklyn-based Gender Equality Law Center, whose staff attorney Vico Fortier told CNN the organization “is horrified.”

“This is really not New York,” Fortier said. “We have strong laws that protect people.”

Fortier said the Center believes Nassau County’s order to be illegal, and that New York State’s website makes it clear that trans women and girls are protected under law.

“We believe this executive order is seeking to punish all sports players, not just trans players,” Fortier said.

Fortier added in 2019, the state passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which codified transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals as a protected class to the New York State Human Rights Law.

James, the state attorney general, referred to the executive order as “transphobic and deeply dangerous” in a statement.

“My office is charged with enforcing and upholding those laws, and we stand up to those who violate them and trespass on the rights of marginalized communities,” James said, adding that the office is currently reviewing legal options.

Ash Orr, the media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the executive order and similar legislation nationwide would “have direct and damaging impacts on the lives of transgender athletes in Nassau County and lead to further isolation and stigmatization of transgender athletes, as well as contribute to the broader cultural narratives surrounding the trans community” in a statement to CNN.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Education sent the White House the proposed changes to the rules of Title IX, which would challenge states banning transgender athletes from sports teams, bringing the department closer to issuing a final rule on the delayed changes.

A 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine that 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.

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