USA Powerlifting is facing a discrimination complaint in Minnesota over its transgender athlete policy after it ruled that JayCee Cooper, a biological man, couldn’t compete against women in officially sanctioned women’s events.
The powerlifting federation’s president told The Daily Caller it’s prepared to go to court to keep the policy in place, and framed the policy as protecting the federal rights of women.
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“At some point, we are going to have to defend the biology and stand on women being a protected class, and it might as well start in Minnesota,” Larry Maile, USA Powerlifting president, told the Caller. The policy is not new, but the federation commissioned a group of experts to find out if it’s backed by science earlier this year, after the dispute with Cooper thrust them into the media spotlight late last year. The results were clear: It’s unfair to allow biological men to compete with women.
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DailyCaller reports: A Minnesota legal nonprofit, Gender Justice, filed the complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights last week on behalf of Cooper, asserting the policy illegally discriminates against people on the basis of gender identity. Sexual orientation is a protected class in Minnesota.
“Like other athletes, [Cooper] worked to ensure that she met the stated policies for competition, and went above and beyond by addressing any potential questions about her gender identity, only to have USA Powerlifting respond with a new, retroactive blanket ban on transgender athletes,” Gender Justice said in a statement announcing the filing.
The policy was not public prior to the dispute with Cooper. But USA Powerlifting says it has turned five people away for transition-related reasons since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee released guidelines on transgender athletes. Maile also took issue with the characterization of the policy as a “blanket ban” and accused the group of using “propaganda language” by framing the complaint as a “charge” against the federation.
“Gender Justice says we have been charged,” he said. “That is propaganda language. You are charged in a criminal complaint. Not only is that not the case, but they have filed a complaint with the human rights commission, and we get to answer it. If the commission rushes to judgment, we will litigate it for denial of due process.”
The federation allows transgender athletes to compete with their biological sex under the policy, so long as they do not use testosterone. Biological men cannot compete with women under any circumstances, and biological women who use testosterone cannot compete with men or women, because the federation is premised on drug-free competition.
“To allow those born and who went through puberty as males to compete as females would be inherently discriminatory against a federally protected class: women,” Maile said in a prepared statement obtained by the Caller. “Further, allowing transgender males to use androgens when no other category of athlete is allowed them represents and unfair advantage of these individuals over those born as men and who are not allowed such use.”
The federation addressed the question of discrimination earlier this year on its website, saying the transgender policy is not rooted in hate, but in a desire for fair play that makes some form of discrimination necessary to any sport. The full paragraph reads:
Why are you discriminatory towards transgender athletes?
A – While the term discrimination is used to catch the attention of the public, it is most often misused. We are a sports organization with rules and policies. They apply to everyone to provide a level playing field. We have restriction such as age eligibility, who can compete as at our national events and so on. No, you are not discriminated against because you are a 40-year-old college student that is not allowed to compete at Collegiate Nationals. No, we are not discriminating against your 7-year-old daughter by not letting her compete. It is simply the rules of this sport that all must be follow if we are to be fair playing field. Another example, males are not allowed to use testosterone and to do so provides him an advantage. A master aged male cannot raise his natural testosterone level. Physicians frequently prescribe levels of androgens that are consistent with much younger men than the age of the patient. USA Powerlifting is not discriminating against master lifters who use testosterone for medical reasons. They may just not compete on our platform based on the drug testing policy.
Cooper moved to change the policy at the federation’s annual meeting in May, where the panel also presented its findings on the science of allowing biological men to compete with women in powerlifting. The voting members overwhelmingly rejected Cooper’s proposal in a 54-6 vote.
Transgender activists have bullied, threatened and harassed executive members of the federation, and in some cases those who are not openly supportive of Cooper’s cause, according to Maile. Cooper has been the subject of several glowing media profiles in which the policy is cast as an attempt to “erase” transgender people. “It’s not fair to genetically eliminate an entire group of people,” Cooper told NBC News in April.
Cooper reiterated that sentiment in a statement on the discrimination complaint. “At some point you have to say enough is enough. Trans rights are human rights. … USA Powerlifting’s blanket ban violates not just the law, but the very spirit of sports.”
Maile told the Caller the federation has not been notified by the state of the complaint, but is prepared to “vigorously” defend its policies. In the prepared statement, the federation said it speaks to a larger issue of the appropriate role of government.
“The question of whether a governmental entity may dictate an inherently unfair and discriminatory practice, ignoring the evidence that to do so will damage a specific group, or several groups of athletes is a larger issue,” the statement said. “It goes to the heart of whether it is appropriate for government to intrude on the practices and rules of a private entity acting to protect fair play, in recognizing scientific evidence about the factors involved.”
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