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USA Powerlifting Wins Appeal in Transgender Athlete’s Discrimination Lawsuit

A recent ruling by a Minnesota appeals court has favored USA Powerlifting in a legal dispute, finding that the organization did not discriminate against a trans woman powerlifter, JayCee Cooper, by disallowing her to participate in the women’s division.

Background of the Case

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After the women’s team refused to accept her, Cooper initiated legal action against USA Powerlifting in 2021. She argued that this decision breached the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which safeguards individuals from discrimination based on gender identity.

Initial District Court Ruling

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The district court initially sided with Cooper, deeming USA Powerlifting’s actions discriminatory. However, the organization later appealed this decision.

Court Decision

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that USA Powerlifting’s exclusion of Cooper from the women’s division was not due to her gender identity but instead based on physiological advantages associated with her previous male puberty.

Organizational Response

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USA Powerlifting’s lead attorney emphasized the importance of maintaining distinct categories within the sport to ensure fairness, citing scientific evidence of strength advantages retained by transgender women even after testosterone suppression.

Future Legal Pathways

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After this ruling, depending on Cooper’s legal team’s action, the case can be taken to a lower court for further litigation or escalated to the Supreme Court.

Judge’s Opinion

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Judge Matthew Johnson highlighted his opinion that no material facts supported the case.

Athlete’s Background

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Court documents reveal that Cooper, who joined USA Powerlifting in 2018, had previously participated in men’s competitions.

She had transitioned in her ‘20s, having undergone male puberty.

Hormone Treatment and Exemption Request

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Cooper’s request for a medication exemption highlighted the complexities of hormone treatment in the context of athletic competition, with estrogen typically introduced following the initial prescription.

Court’s Reasoning

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The appeals court reasoned that Cooper’s male physiology, despite her female gender identity, justified USA Powerlifting’s decision to exclude her from the women’s division to maintain competitive fairness.

Broader Context

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This case emerges amid growing debates over the inclusion of transgender athletes in sports, exemplified by a recent lawsuit against the NCAA over its transgender athlete policy, challenging the organization’s compliance with Title IX.

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