In court papers, NY AG'S office says Nassau County’s trans sports ban is illegal

The state attorney general’s office has filed documents in federal court accusing Nassau County of breaking state and federal law with a sports ban on transgender women and girls — but the office stopped short of explicitly asking the court to quash the ban.

Attorney General Letitia James’ office said in the filing that the ban runs afoul of “state and federal constitutional protections” by drawing distinctions based on sex. The attorney general’s office submitted the filing on Friday, two weeks after Nassau County sued her office in an escalation of a vitriolic public battle over the ban.

Under the ban, transgender females in Nassau County are forbidden from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity at about 100 county-run facilities. Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, said he issued the order to prevent women and girls from gaining an unfair competitive advantage — though he has been unable to cite an example of such an issue surfacing in his county.

“It is coming to Nassau County — it is coming to all communities,” Blakeman said this month.

Some Republicans appear to see transgender bans as a winning issue. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, the Republican who represents the southern half of Nassau County, has voiced support for Blakeman’s ban, declaring in a statement that “preserving women’s sports is just common sense.”

But Democrats say the measures are cruel, and potentially dangerous to vulnerable transgender children, who report alarmingly high rates of suicide and depression.

Nassau County’s lawsuit came in response to a cease-and-desist letter the attorney general’s office sent to the county demanding that it rescind the order.

Legal experts have suggested Nassau County’s lawsuit more closely resembles a press release than a coherent legal claim, but have also said it could have been an effort to force the attorney general to present her objections to the ban to a court. In a statement this month, James, a Democrat, described the ban as “transphobic and blatantly illegal.”

In its Friday filing, the attorney general’s office focused heavily on assailing Nassau County’s lawsuit, which it described as “baseless and riddled with defects that render it nonjusticiable,” using a legal term for cases that do not belong before a court.

The 32-page response, filed in Central Islip Federal Court, asserted that the county lacks standing and failed to “allege, let alone support through evidence, any actionable claim.”

In the lawsuit, the county requested a declaratory judgment finding that the county order is legal.

A plaintiff in the lawsuit is the father of a female 16-year-old volleyball player who, the complaint claimed, could be subject to “risk of injury by a transgender girl” if transgender females are allowed to participate in girls’ youth sports.

In its response, the attorney general’s office said that the county had failed to present any harm requiring a court remedy. But it did not let go of its threat of separate legal action.

The response said the order “directly contravenes” state law, which makes it “illegal for places of public accommodation, including those owned or operated by a local government entity, to discriminate on the bases of ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity or expression.'”

The attorney general’s office wrote that it desires the freedom to challenge the order in a “forum and venue” of its choosing.

In a statement, Blakeman pushed back against the notion that the ban is illegal, and asked why James’ office has not taken action against groups such as Community Education Council 2 in Manhattan that have moved to implement transgender bans.

“Nassau County is consistent with long standing principles protecting the integrity and safety of women’s sports,” Blakeman said in his statement.

The attorney general’s office is not alone in objecting in court to Nassau County’s ban. Two weeks ago, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued the county in state Supreme Court over the ban.

The NYCLU’s complaint said the county’s ban “perpetuates and requires discrimination based on gender identity that is squarely prohibited by New York State law.”