Nassau's Republican-led legislature passed a controversial bill that prohibits transgender female athletes from taking part in women's and girls sports on county properties. NewsdayTV's Virginia Huie reports. Credit: Newsday/Jeff Bachner, Rick Kopstein

Nassau lawmakers approved a bill backed by County Executive Bruce Blakeman to bar transgender female athletes from taking part in women's and girls sports on county properties, despite opposition from civil rights groups and advocates of the LGBTQ+ community.

The County Legislature voted 12-5 for the measure Monday afternoon, two weeks after the chamber's Rules Committee gave preliminary approval. Republicans hold a 12-7 majority in the chamber and Blakeman, a Republican, must sign the legislation for it to take effect. Nassau Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) was absent from the meeting while Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) was absent for the vote.

The bill marks Blakeman's second attempt to shepherd the ban into law and echoes conservative lawmakers across the country who have tried to regulate the inclusion of transgender athletes in female sports.

During a contentious hearing Monday, Democratic lawmakers likened the restrictions to totalitarian tactics. Transgender rights activists held posters — "Trans Girls Are Girls" and "Trans Women are Women" — at the legislature's chambers in Mineola, when Republicans spoke in support of the bill.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Nassau lawmakers approved a bill Monday to bar transgender female athletes from taking part in women's and girls sports on county properties.
  • GOP County Executive Bruce Blakeman backs the legislation, and Republicans hold a 12-7 majority in the chamber.
  • The bill marked Blakeman's second attempt to shepherd the ban into law.

After the vote, transgender activists repeatedly shouted, "Shame!," and "this is how it starts!"

Republican lawmakers said transgender women and girls hold competitive advantages over women and girls who were born female and could injure and take scholarship opportunities away from them.

"There are just biological advantages that males have," Nassau Legis. John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown) said. "This is just common sense."

Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville) suggested there should be a separate league for only transgender athletes.

Nassau Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said the bill was, "in clear contravention of the state law. It's beyond me why this county executive wants to continue squandering taxpayer hard-earned dollars on legal fees defending this law." He added the measure is based on "fear and speculation." 

Victoria LaGreca, a lawyer with the county attorney's office, defended the bill during the lengthy hearing. 

When Drucker disputed the concern that transgender girls could take prestigious scholarships away from girls and women assigned female at birth, LaGreca said: "It's not just scholarships. It's places on the podium, trophies, medals and scholarships, and yes, that has been documented as happening."

"Really, where? In Nassau County?" Drucker said.

"Not in Nassau County," LaGreca replied. "That doesn't mean it's not an issue."

LaGreca said later the law helps to uphold "the principle" of "protecting women from getting seriously injured and harmed."

On June 7, Blakeman proposed a new county administrative code, Title 90, overseeing “Fairness for Women and Girls in Sports.” The legislature's Rules Committee approved the bill during a contentious hearing on June 10.

The law does not preclude transgender males from playing in boys and men's sports, or from participating in sports specifically designated for coed play.

Blakeman first attempted to regulate the issue in February when he signed an executive order barring female transgender athletes from playing in women's and girls sports leagues on county properties. Blakeman and Republicans say transgender females have competitive advantages, and the ban is needed to create a "truly level playing field" for women vying to compete in "athletic endeavors" and qualify for scholarships.

Civil rights groups and LGBTQ+ advocates say the proposed legislation is discriminatory and if enforced, would subject transgender youth to invasive screenings and bullying.

In May, a State Supreme Court justice struck down the order in response to a lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Long Island Roller Rebels, a female flat track roller derby team that applied for a county permit to hold competitions.

Their lawsuit said the ban violates state and federal discrimination laws, as well as guidance from the State Education Department.

State Supreme Court Justice Francis Ricigliano, a Republican, ruled Blakeman had exceeded his authority by issuing the order because there was no “corresponding legislative enactment.”

Correction: The Nassau County Legislature voted 12-5 on Monday for a bill to bar transgender female athletes from taking part in women's and girls sports on county properties. Nassau Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) was absent from the meeting while Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) was absent for the vote. An earlier version of this misstated the vote.

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