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Long Island lawmakers to vote on whether to ban trans women athletes from competing in public facilities

Trans-inclusive roller derby team future in doubt
Long Island roller derby team's future in jeopardy as vote over transgender sports ban looms 03:24

A renewed fight over transgender rights is unfolding on Long Island, New York, as Nassau County lawmakers are set to vote on whether to ban transgender women athletes from competing in women's teams in county-owned facilities.

In February, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed an executive order denying permits to women's or girl's sporting events with transgender participants, barring them from using the county's more than 100 public facilities.

"We started hearing from a lot of girls and a lot of women that they thought it was very unfair and very unsafe that biological males were competing in what is billed as all-girl teams or all-women teams," Blakeman said of his decision.

The ban was a huge blow to the Long Island Roller Rebels, a flat-track roller derby team that counts several transgender players among their ranks.

"Where it starts is understanding that trans women are women and that we should just continue to categorize them as women," said 33-year-old Amanda Urena, the president of the Long Island-based recreational group.

In March, the Roller Rebels, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New York, sued Nassau County over Blakeman's executive order, arguing the policy violated the state's Human Rights and Civil Rights Laws.

Last month, a judge ruled Blakeman acted "beyond the scope of his authority."

Now, a similar measure is being considered by the Nassau County Legislature, which is made up of 12 Republicans and seven Democrats. The legislature's rules committee voted to advance the bill Monday after it was introduced last week. A full vote is set for June 24.

Gabriella Larios, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, believes if the law passes it will be struck down because it violates state anti-discrimination laws.

"In 2019, New York amended its Human Rights Law and its Civil Rights Law to explicitly prohibit discrimination against transgender people," Larios said.

Nearly 150 anti-LGBTQ bills are under consideration across the U.S., according to the ACLU. Of those, 21 target transgender athletes. Since Blakeman's executive order, four other states have come closer to passing bills targeting transgender athletes.

Urena says the Roller Rebels' fight is "about protecting people's rights to be able to participate in the activities that have been paid for by their communities through taxes."

"We fully believe we are standing in the right place in history, and that we are standing up for Nassau County. We're standing up for people's rights," Urena said.

When asked what he would say to transgender women who believe their rights aren't being protected, Blakeman said, "What about the rights of women? Compete in a co-ed league, form a transgender league. We're not anti-transgender. We are pro-women."

The Roller Rebels have gotten around the opposition for now by renting out private spaces for their late-night practices. In what they call a fight for justice, their attitude is: where there's a will, there's a way to keep rolling.

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