A Minnesota judge has ruled that biological men who identify as women can compete against natural-born women in USA Powerlifting (USAPL) following a discrimination case against the organization.
In his ruling (pdf), District Judge Patrick Diamond said that the national powerlifting organization must “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices” after finding that it had engaged in unfair discriminatory practices by denying transgender weightlifter JayCee Cooper “the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodation because of sexual orientation.”
Cooper, who was born a male, filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2019 alleging that the organization had violated the state’s Human Rights Act after Cooper was banned from competing in the women’s division.
Cooper then filed a lawsuit against USA Powerlifting in state court in 2021 alleging claims of sex and sexual orientation discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) against USAPL and Powerlifting Minnesota.
The lawsuit, which was filed through the Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice, also alleged that Powerlifting Minnesota had aided and abetted sex and sexual orientation discrimination under the MHRA.
Cooper Was ‘Separated, Segregated’
Lawyers for the weightlifter said in the lawsuit (pdf) that Cooper began powerlifting in 2018 and “fell in love with the sport.”
“Ms. Cooper sees powerlifting as a way to find strength within herself and has found a home in the community of strong supportive women who come together around a shared love of sport,” the lawyers wrote.
It goes on to note that Cooper had been training to compete in the USAPL Minnesota State Bench Press Championship and the Minnesota Women’s State Championship in January and February 2019, respectively, but in December 2018, USAPL sent an email to the weightlifter, stating that Cooper could not compete because of Cooper’s transgender identity.
“USAPL then revoked her competition card, which means that she was not eligible to compete in future USAPL events,” the lawsuit states, referring to Cooper. “USAPL MN then went on to hold both championship events, at which all transgender women athletes were prohibited from competing.”
Diamond ultimately agreed with Cooper’s attorneys.
“By denying Cooper the right to participate in the female category, the category consistent with her self-identification, USAPL denied her the full and equal enjoyment of the services, support, and facilities USAPL offered its members,” Diamond wrote in his ruling. “It separated Cooper and segregated her and, in doing so, failed to fully perform the contractual obligations it agreed to when it accepted Cooper’s money and issued Cooper a membership card.”
The judge also noted in his 46-page ruling that “the harm is in making a person pretend to be something different, the implicit message being that who they are is less than.”
“That is the very essence of separation and segregation, and it is what the MHRA prohibits,” the judge wrote. He also cited the “increased risk of depression and suicide, lack of access to coaching and practice facilities, or other performance suppression common to transgender persons,” as competitive disadvantages for transgender competitors.
USA Powerlifting Must Revise Policy
USAPL had argued that allowing male-to-female transgender athletes to compete against women was against company policy and that Cooper would have a competitive advantage over natural-born women.
In 2021, USAPL established an MX category, which is open to cisgender men and women as well as transgender men and women.
Judge Diamond ordered that USAPL submit a revised policy to remedy three specific areas of discrimination within 14 days and to comply with the revised policy thereafter.
A trial on possible damages has been set for May 1.
In a statement to Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE-TV after the ruling, Cooper called the decision a “win.”
“After years of experiencing discrimination from USA Powerlifting, and the backlash that has occurred due to that, of course I have complex feelings about the sport,” Cooper said. “But I think that this win – [it] is a representation of where we can move forward.”
‘We Respectfully Disagree’
Separately, USA Powerlifting President Larry Maile told the KARE-TV it is considering appealing the decision.
“Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women, whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports,” Maile said. “We have received a summary judgment decision from the Court finding us liable for discrimination. We respectfully disagree with the Court’s conclusions. We are considering all of our options, including appeal.”
The Epoch Times has contacted USA Powerlifting for comment.
The latest ruling comes shortly after 22 Republican senators, including Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), reintroduced a bill aimed at protecting female athletes and ensuring fairness and safety in women’s sports at educational institutions across the United States.
Known as the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,” the bill would preserve Title IX protections for female athletes, which ban discrimination on the basis of sex in sports programs and require all educational institutions in the country to reward male and female athletes equally.
That bill would counteract the Biden administration’s expected plans to finalize rules in May that would force institutions to allow biological males to share women-only spaces and compete in women’s sports.