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USA Powerlifting and transgender athlete agree to talks related to trans ban

USA Powerlifting and lawyers representing a lifter who filed a discrimination complaint because of USAPL’s trans-exclusionary policy will attempt a settlement.

JayCee Cooper
JayCee Cooper / Instagram

Outsports has learned exclusively of a breakthrough between the two sides in the year-long transgender powerlifting ban saga. The president of USA Powerlifting and lawyers for a trans athlete tell us they are going to sit down with a mediator in hopes of resolving her discrimination complaint, filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, or MDHR.

“We are agreeing to mediation as part of the MDHR process,” said Gender Justice legal director Jess Braverman, in an email to Outsports late Tuesday night. Braverman represents JayCee Cooper, the transgender woman whose efforts to participate like every other female competitor are blocked by USA Powerlifting’s “Transgender Participation Policy.”

In its complaint, Gender Justice argued that by excluding trans women athletes from competing as women, the USAPL is violating the state’s 1993 law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Larry Maile, president of USA Powerlifting, told Outsports last month about his organization’s offer to mediate the dispute.

But when Outsports contacted Braverman at that time, she told Outsports that her legal team would not agree to negotiate with USAPL until the organization changed its Transgender Participation Policy. “JayCee, Gender Justice, and co-counsel Nichols Kaster, PLLP, are always open to discussion, but we have no intention of settling this matter without USAPL lifting their blanket ban on trans women athletes.”

Mediation is but one step in the process of the human rights complaint. In her email to Outsports last month, Braverman laid out the other steps she and her legal team will take, if mediation fails:

”There could be an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. An investigator would look into the underlying facts and determine whether or not there is ‘probable cause’ to believe discrimination occurred. Before or after this determination by the department, and regardless of what the determination is, we could file this case in court and go forward with a lawsuit.”

That’s all on hold now, of course, and the next step is to see if USAPL and Gender Justice can negotiate a settlement of the complaint.

Maile told Outsports that it’s now up to the MDHR to schedule the talks. It’s not clear how long before that happens. And as that process drags on, transgender athletes, including Cooper, remain banned from competing.

This is a developing story. Outsports has conducted extensive interviews with both Maile and Cooper as well as transgender athlete and researcher Joanna Harper, for a report that will be published later this week.