New York county forced to allow men to play women's sports after court order

"This Court finds the County Executive acted beyond the scope of his authority as the Chief Executive Officer of Nassau County."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A New York judge has struck down an order from a Long Island county that banned biological males from playing in women’s sports.  

Judge Francis Ricigliano of the New York Supreme Court wrote in a 13-page decision Friday, "With the stated goal of protecting women's and girls' rights to compete athletically, the County Executive issued an Executive Order aimed at preventing transgender women from participating in girls' and women's athletics at Nassau County parks, despite there being no corresponding legislative enactment providing the County Executive with the authority to issue such an order."  

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

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed an executive order in February titled, "An Executive Order for Fairness for Women and Girls in sports."   

Under the order, any applicant seeking a permit to use Nassau County Parks property for a sporting event or competition had to expressly designate whether the team members or participants of the event are males, females, or coed. Those competing in gendered divisions were required to compete based on their biological sex.  

A women’s roller derby league, Roller Rebels, challenged the order. The league stated it welcomed “all transgender women, intersex women, and gender-expansive women to participate.” 

The judge wrote that Blakeman did not have the authority to issue such an order.  

"It is axiomatic that the chief executive of a local government cannot unlawfully infringe upon the legislative powers reserved for the legislature," the judge wrote. "Certainly, if the Nassau County Legislature were to pass legislation pertaining to 'protecting and promoting athletic opportunities for women and girls' by prohibiting biological males from participation in girls' or women's sports, then the County Executive would have the power to enforce it - subject, of course, to any claims that the law was unconstitutional or violated a state or federal statute."  

"Some legislatures have in fact enacted such laws. The Nassau County Legislature has not. Nor has New York State. Nor has Congress."  

Judge Ricigliano’s decision did not delve into the arguments put forth by both sides as to why or why not trans-identified males should be able to compete in women’s divisions.  

"In their respective submissions to the Court, the parties devote much attention to the issues of transgender persons' participation in sports, women's and girls' rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, and whether the Executive Order violates the New York State Human Rights Law," Ricigliano wrote.  

"However, the Court must first consider whether the County Executive had the authority to issue the Executive Order without any corresponding action by the County Legislature," he added, noting that a Court of Appeals ruled similarly, invalidating the executive order. 

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