On April 15, 2023, USA Powerlifting (USAPL) announced on its website that a Minnesota district court has ruled that the organization can no longer conduct business in Minnesota unless it allows trans women to compete alongside other women. USAPL plans to appeal this decision, which follows the Ramsey County District Court ruling that the USAPL’s policy of banning trans women from competition is discriminatory and violates the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
On Feb. 27, the Court ruled that USAPL must change its “Transgender Participation Policy” within two weeks. Six weeks later, the USAPL announced online that the Court:
“[H]as ordered us to cease doing business in Minnesota…We will appeal this highly unusual ruling. However, while these proceedings play out, we are ordered to suspend competitions in Minnesota and cease selling memberships to Minnesota residents. We are investigating relocating Midwest Regionals, and further information will be forthcoming.”
When this article was published, there wasn’t a public record of the Court’s order. According to public documents, there was a remote hearing regarding the case as part of a pretrial conference on April 11. It’s possible that this hearing is when the court order was announced.
[Related: IATBP Is Transforming Powerlifting and Bodybuilding for Trans and Nonbinary Lifters]
In its Feb. 27 decision for the case Cooper vs. USA Powerlifting, the Court gave the USAPL 14 days “to submit a revised policy with respect to transgender participation.” Specifically, the Court ordered that the USAPL must “cease and desist from the unfair discriminatory practice” of not allowing trans women to compete alongside other women.
On March 13, as part of the USAPL’s appeal of the Feb. 27 decision, the organization informed the Court that “we are deferring the submission of a revised policy for transgender women and reserve all of our objections to the portion of the February 27, 2023 Order on that issue.”
The USAPL in Minnesota
USAPL President Larry Maile also addressed the subsequent ruling in an April 15 episode of “The USA Powerlifting Podcast.” Maile stated at 0:53 that the Ramsey County District Court recently determined that the USAPL “is prohibited from selling new memberships in Minnesota. We are also prohibited from running meets in Minnesota at this time.”
Maile went on to explain that the May 27 and 28 USAPL Central and Midwest Regionals had been scheduled to occur in St. Paul, MN. He said at 1:09 that the USAPL is “looking to move” these events to a surrounding state.
“We have filed a series of appeals and will do more,” Maile told listeners at 2:58.
According to the Court’s ruling in February, the USAPL must revise its transgender policy to make it comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act. This law requires that businesses and public accommodations can’t deny people full participation based on their sex or sexual orientation.
The USAPL has requested that the Court delay enforcing its Feb. 27 order, pending appeal.
Cooper vs. USA Powerlifting
The impetus for this recent ruling is from the Feb. 2023 decision in Cooper vs. USA Powerlifting, which came about after Minnesota-based powerlifter JayCee Cooper sued the USAPL for discrimination. In 2019, the USAPL emailed Cooper to inform her that she was ineligible to compete with other women in the 2019 Minnesota Women’s State Championship because she is trans.
[Related: Watch VICE’s Documentary About the Struggles of Transgender Powerlifters]
Cooper subsequently filed a claim of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. In 2021, the Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice helped Cooper take this claim to state court.
In its 46-page ruling issued in Feb. 2023, the Ramsey County District Court ruled in favor of Cooper’s claim that the policy banning trans women is discriminatory and in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The USAPL is appealing the ruling.
The Future of USAPL in Minnesota
In the April 15 podcast episode at 17:17, Maile stated the following regarding the future of USAPL policy regarding trans athletes:
“Are we going to capitulate? I don’t see us doing that. Will we maybe have a patchwork of different rules in different states? We may well. I can tell you one thing, though: there will never be a national championship again in a state that doesn’t see the world the way we do…Our national policy is not changing.”
If there are any changes to the USAPL’s policy or its status in Minnesota, BarBend will continue to keep readers updated.
To learn more about trans athletes and training across strength sports, check out these articles:
Featured Image: @jayceeisalive / Instagram
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