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NY Attorney General sends cease-and-desist order to county executive over transgender sports ban

By Michelle Watson and Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) — New York Attorney General Letitia James demanded that Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman rescind a ban on transgender athletes from competing in women’s and girls’ sports, saying the ban was a “discriminatory and transphobic executive order,” according to a press release Friday.

“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 the 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.”

James said the order, which applied to more than 100 venues under the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Museums, was a “clear violation” of state civil and human rights law and would subject all female athletes to “intrusive and invasive questioning.”

The executive order, signed on February 22, banned transgender athletes from competing on girls’ or women’s sports leagues and teams at county facilities. Nassau County is a wealthy suburb on Long Island.

“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. He added transgender athletes can compete on all-boys or coed leagues in the county.

CNN has reached out to Blakeman’s office for comment.

The order was part of a push to restrict transgender athletes’ participation in organized sports in the name of “fairness.” In the past few years, regulatory bodies overseeing high-level sports have struggled to find a balance between inclusion and fair play, and the issue’s prominence in right-wing media has trickled down to impact even local recreational sports.

Ash Orr, the media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement 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.”

Because there are so few elite trans athletes, there is very little hard data comparing performance between transgender athletes and cisgender athletes.

2017 literature review of studies published in the journal Sports Medicine found “no direct or consistent research” of trans people having an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers. The primary barrier to trans participation in sports was “the lack of inclusive and comfortable environments,” the authors wrote.

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CNN’s Ashley R. Williams and Nic F. Anderson contributed to this report.

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