For Minnesota powerlifter JayCee Cooper, a trans woman who has been one of the prominent faces in an ongoing debate over inclusion and participation in sports, a four-year fight yielded a victory in court Monday.
A Ramsey County, Minn., District Court judge ruled that USA Powerlifting violated portions of the Minnesota Human Rights Act through continued efforts to keep Cooper and other transgender competitors out of their events. The initial actions of the governing body in 2019 led Cooper, alongside attorneys from Minnesota-based LGBTQ rights organization Gender Justice, to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. A lawsuit against USAPL was filed in January 2021.
“Trans athletes across the country deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else, and we deserve equitable opportunities to compete in the sports we love,” Cooper said. “I jumped through every hoop, cleared every hurdle to be able to compete with USA Powerlifting, but was met with a retroactive ban on trans athletes.”
The ruling by District Court Judge Patrick Diamond stated that USAPL failed to uphold certain responsibilities codified in law when Cooper was granted membership status in 2018.
“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 summary judgment ruling orders USAPL to submit a revised policy to remedy three specific areas of discrimination cited within 14 days. Possible damages due to Cooper will be decided upon in a hearing scheduled for May 1.
Attorneys for Cooper welcomed the ruling and noted the potential future impact. “After today’s ruling, we are one step closer to making sure trans athletes like JayCee, and trans people everywhere in Minnesota, can pursue their dreams and goals without experiencing discrimination simply for being who they are,” attorney David Schlesinger said.
For Cooper, the ruling is a welcome sight after four years of struggle, uncertainty and being sidelined in a sport she loved being a part of.
“I fought as hard as I could to ensure that every trans athlete has the opportunity to compete, and be recognized with full dignity and humanity,” she stated. “I am thrilled that this ruling recognizes our rights and our humanity and hopefully opens doors for transgender athletes everywhere to participate fully in sports.”