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LPGA Modifies Rules to Include Transgender Competitors

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The Ladies Professional Golf Association, also known as the LPGA, has voted to end a clause in its constitutional policy on gender that requires competitors to be “female at birth.” This decision comes after a months-long federal lawsuit by Lana Lawless, which argued that the stipulation violated civil rights law.

Lawless, a transgender golfer from California, filed the complaint in October after being barred from competing at the annual women’s long-drive golf championship this year, due to the fact that organizers had adopted the LPGA’s rules regarding gender. Lawless has played golf for all of her life and previously won this same championship in 2008 with a 254-yard drive. “It’s an issue of access and opportunity,” Lawless commented in October. “I’ve been shut out because of prejudice.” According to the Associated Press, “Lawless wanted to prevent the LPGA from conducting tournaments in the state until it changed its policy, and was seeking unspecified damages.” Lawless sued the Long Drivers of America and three sponsors of the LPGA tour as well.

Members of the LPGA made the decision at a year-end meeting at the LPGA Tour Championship on Tuesday night. Christopher Dolan, an attorney for Lawless, said, “We are pleased that the LPGA has voted to end this archaic and outdated policy.” The change will be made over the next couple of weeks.

The modification is consistent with inclusive gender policies adopted by other professional sports associations in the recent past, including the United States Golf Association, the Ladies Golf Union in Britain, the Ladies European Golf Tour, and the International Olympic Committee in 2004. “It’s a wake-up call to other entities that we’re not going to tolerate discrimination based on gender identity,” Kristina Wertz, the legal director of San Francisco’s Transgender Law Center, said of the lawsuit. However, there was no immediate plan to drop it, especially since the Long Drivers of America has not offered changes to their own policy.

GLAAD applauds the LPGA for making this appropriate and necessary change in its policy and will continue to monitor media coverage of transgender athletes in order to ensure their fair and accurate representation.

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