Nassau makes a federal case out of trans gender ban


Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Mark Mullen, a Nassau County parent of a female athlete, are filing a federal lawsuit contesting New York State Attorney General Letitia James' cease-and-desist order halting the county's ban  on biological males playing in women’s sports on county property.

“What the attorney general was asking us to do was a violation of federal constitutional law and federal statutory law,” Blakeman said at a  news conference in Mineola on March 6. “Our response was to file a lawsuit, for a declaratory judgment, requiring the attorney general to come before a federal judge and explain why this cease-and-desist order has been issued and the threat of sanctions and litigations against the county, when we in Nassau County are protecting women and girls, who are a protected class under the constitution and under federal law.”

On March 1, James sent a cease-and-desist letter to Blakeman, demanding he rescind his executive order banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports in county facilities.

James said the executive order was transphobic and illegal under New York State’s Human Rights and Civil Rights Laws. The cease-and-desist order stated the county was required to rescind the executive order or face additional legal action.

“Not only will the order impact a wide array of Nassau-based teams and leagues, it will undoubtedly deter inclusive teams and transgender women and girls who participate in women’s and girl’s sports from other parts of the State who want to participate in sporting events and competitions in Nassau County,” James wrote previously 

In reaction to the lawsuit a spokesperson from the Attorney General's office wrote:

“County Executive Blakeman’s executive order is transphobic and discriminatory. Our laws protect New Yorkers from discrimination, and the Office of the Attorney General is committed to upholding those laws and protecting our communities. This is not up for debate: the executive order is illegal, and it will not stand in New York.”

At the March 6 news conference, Blakeman cited the New York City Marathon as an example where males and females compete exclusively in their own classified groups.

“There is a reason for those classifications,” he said. “Because males are bigger, stronger and faster and it wouldn’t be a fair competition with females.”

Blakeman said that the county’s action is consistent with the constitution, treating women and girls as a protected class under federal law.

“Transgender women who are biological males, are not a protected class under federal law,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman said that the order is not transphobic as stated by James.

“Transgender athletes can compete freely here in Nassau County and we welcome it,” Blakeman said. “If you’re a biological male and you identify yourself as a female you can play against other biological males, or you can play in a coed league.”

Blakeman posed the idea of starting a transgender league, something he and the Parks and Recreation Commissioner Darcy Belyea, are open to, he said.  

Blakeman passed the executive order on Feb. 22  with support of Nassau County female athletes, County Legislator Samantha Goetz and sports activist Kimberly Ross, standing by his side. 

The executive order demands sports, leagues, organizations, teams, programs or sport entities operating in county facilities must designate themselves based on male, female or coed, and then only accept athletes who meet that criteria according to what was originally listed on their birth certificate. While those born male would not be allowed to participate in female teams, the order does not ban females from joining male teams. 

The lawsuit will be filed in the Eastern District.