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Transgender Rights and Sports: Civil Rights Now and Into the Future
The fight for transgender rights is arguably the newest front in the modern civil rights debate. And yet, instead of widespread efforts to extend legal safeguards for the trans community, many states across the nation are headed in the opposite direction – especially when it comes to youth sports. An unprecedented number of bills have been introduced over the past two years to ban or severely limit transgender youth from participating in school sports. These measures primarily target K-12 students, and many are now before state, district and U.S. appellate courts.

New York, along with local school districts and athletic associations in many states, have policies that seek to protect the civil rights of transgender persons – especially children – while also ensuring a level playing field for all athletes. However, positions that may be taken by higher courts at the federal level could potentially limit or reverse these important safeguards altogether. This panel will provide education and the opportunity for mutually respectful, objective, fact-based dialogue on the constitutional, scientific, and social justice implications of these laws. In addition, the panel will address broader issues surrounding the competitive impact of existing guidelines intended to afford inclusion of athletes with Differences of Sexual Development (“DSD”) at the collegiate, Olympic, and other elite levels while ensuring fair competition.

Panelists included Task Force chair Jacqueline J. Drohan, Task Force member Sasha Buchert, Jennifer L. Levi of GLAD, Prof. Erin Buzuvis of Western New England School of Law, and Dr. Emma Forbes-Jones, PhD. Hon. Letitia James, Attorney General of New York, gave the keynote address.

The Task Force held its first public forum on December 1, 2021 to highlight and preview the Task Force’s mission and work plan.  Task Force members were joined by Dr. Carolyn Wolf-Gould, MD, director of the Gender Wellness Center and an expert in transgender health.

The Task Force held its second public forum on December 16, 2021. The panel focused on the legal issues surrounding the work of the Task Force. Task Force members Jill Pilgrim, Esq., a sports lawyer who is active on this issue, and Tara Moffett, Esq., an education lawyer focusing on special education and childhood issues, were joined by Prof. Mallory Livingstone, adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School. Task Force chair Jackie J. Drohan, Esq. moderated the forum.


Press Releases & Articles

“Creating A Culture of Inclusion Benefits Transgender Students and Their Peers” (January 20, 2022): https://nysba.org/creating-a-culture-of-inclusion-benefits-all-students/

“Transgender Youth in Sports: Questions Remain Unresolved” (December 6, 2021): https://nysba.org/transgender-youth-in-sports-questions-remain-unresolved/

“Why Allowing Transgender Youth To Participate In Sports Levels the Playing Field” (December 2, 2021): https://nysba.org/why-allowing-transgender-youth-to-participate-in-sports-levels-the-playing-field/

“NYSBA To Examine Laws Banning and Limiting Participation of Transgender Youth in Sports” (October 7, 2021): https://nysba.org/nysba-to-examine-laws-banning-and-limiting-participation-of-transgender-youth-in-sports/

 


Mission Statement

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) recognizes that an unprecedented number of bills have been introduced across the nation over the past two years to ban or severely limit transgender youth from participating in school sports, targeting primarily children in grades K-12. Many of these measures are now before state, district and U.S. appellate courts (see, e.g. Hecox v. Little, Aug 2020) and B.P.J. v. West Virginia, July 2021). New York, along with local school districts and athletic associations in many states, have instituted policies that seek to both protect the civil rights of transgender persons – especially children – while also ensuring a level playing field for all athletes. However, positions that may be taken by higher courts at the federal level could potentially impact or even reverse these important safeguards.

This past year, NYSBA filed an amicus brief in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the rights of same-sex couples to provide foster childcare. NYSBA continues to champion diversity in the profession and the broader rights of LGBTQ+ persons, and all people, to fair and equal treatment under the law.

The Task Force on the Treatment of Transgender Youth in Sports would provide education and the opportunity for mutually respectful, objective, fact-based dialog to NYSBA membership on the constitutional, scientific, and social justice implications of these legislative proposals and laws impacting New Yorkers. In addition, it would address broader issues surrounding the competitive impact of existing guidelines intended to afford inclusion of athletes with Differences of Sexual Development (“SDS”) at the collegiate, Olympic, and other elite levels while ensuring fair competition. Such efforts, coupled with further study, would support a report and recommendations on these issues to the House of Delegates.

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