Update May 13, 11amET:
The Disc Golf Pro Tour appealed a federal judge’s ruling and won, allowing DGPT to bar trans pro disc golfer Natalie Ryan from the female competition in this weekend’s OTB Open. The Ninth Circuit Court overruled a lower court not on the basis of merit, but rather jurisdiction: “It appears that the district court lacks diversity jurisdiction over the [Disc Golf Pro] Tour because Plaintiff and at least one member of the Tour are citizens of Virginia.”
After the first round of play, Ryan was in fifth place out of 48 competitors.
Natalie Ryan, a transgender woman and Disc Golf pro with 2 career Disc Golf Pro Tour Elite Series wins, has been in the eye of a storm starting since the Professional Disc Golf Association changed regulations that would keep her out of the female division for Elite Series and major-event competition.
In response, she filed a discrimination suit against the PDGA in February.
On Thursday, a federal judge in California threw her a ray of sunshine.
U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley granted a temporary restraining order allowing Ryan to compete in her first Elite Series event in 2023, the OTB Open starting Friday in Stockton Calif., in the Female Professional Open division.
Nunley’s main contentions concerned the policy itself, which states that a transgender woman can compete in the elite tournament if they meet one of three criteria covering hormone replacement, affirming surgery, or puberty blockers prior to age 12.
The court noted pieces of the regulation that could be ruled as discriminatory practice.
“It appears there was an intentional act, the creation of a policy, that excludes individuals based on their protected status as transgender women,” Nunley wrote in the decision. “The Court makes no determinations as to whether this is sufficient to actually establish intentional discrimination, but it raises serious questions.”
The court paid particular attention to the third criterion of the PDGA policy, which states that transgender woman seeking to play would have to start medical transition such as puberty blockers prior to age 12 or before Tanner Stage 2, whichever comes last.
“This section appears to directly target an individual’s sex and gender by creating a temporal line when one must transition,” Nunley continued in his decision. “Those who fail to comport with this timeline are forever barred from the FPO. This policy seems inextricably tied to sex and gender and, at this stage of litigation, the Court can see no way to separate them. Accordingly, the Court finds serious questions going to the merits of the intentional discrimination claim.”
Ryan was pleased with the ruling.
“Today is a momentous win for trans athletes and I will see you all at OTB,” she said on Instagram. “Thank you your honor, for passing me a match. My fire is going to burn brighter than ever this weekend.”
The response matched her general mood since the PGDA policy was announced in December. Ryan has been consistently strident in challenging negative perceptions.
“I refuse to let a few ignorant people remove my joy for this game without a fight,” she said when she filed the lawsuit.” My rights are mine and I will be damned if I’m going to roll over and let them take them!”
Lawyers representing the PDGA fought on a number of procedural grounds in regards to the timing of the action and the jurisdiction of the court case. Representatives for the PDGA also cited that Ryan would still be eligible to play in the DGPT’s biggest events by doing so in the Mixed Professional Open division, which is open to both men’s and women’s competitors, but is mainly seen as de facto men’s division.
The official stance of the tour is that they do not agree with the ruling but will comply with it this weekend. Lawyers for the PDGA filed noticed that an appeal to the restraining order would be filed to the 9th U.S. District Circuit Court of Appeals.