In a new filing with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR), Gender Justice asserts that USA Powerlifting illegally discriminated against JayCee Cooper based on her gender identity.

Cooper, an amateur powerlifter and transgender woman, was blocked by USA Powerlifting from competing in Minnesota’s State Bench Press Championship in January 2019. Like other athletes, she worked to ensure that she met the stated policies for competition and went above and beyond by addressing any potential questions about her gender identity, only to have USA Powerlifting respond with a new, retroactive blanket ban on transgender athletes. As the sport’s governing body for the United States, USA Powerlifting’s rigid policy effectively excludes Cooper – and athletes like her – from any meaningful competition.     

“As a powerlifter and a transgender person, I’m no stranger to a challenge,” says Cooper. “I’ve jumped through all the hoops, trying to meet USA Powerlifting’s arbitrary and subjective standards, just to have them respond with an outright ban on transgender women in competitions. At some point you have to say enough is enough. Trans rights are human rights. Trans athletes are supported in our right to compete by the International Olympic Committee, the International Powerlifting Federation’s Executive Committee, federal and Minnesota state law. USA Powerlifting’s blanket ban violates not just the law, but the very spirit of sports.”  

Today’s MDHR filing asserts that USA Powerlifting discriminated against Cooper in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity, in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. On behalf of Cooper and others, Gender Justice is seeking protection from discrimination, and a clear, fair standard that allows trans athletes the opportunity to compete.     

“There are many threats to women’s sports, but equality and inclusion are not among them,” said Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman. “Like other female athletes, JayCee is facing policies rooted in bias, fear and unfounded stereotypes. We believe USA Powerlifting’s over-the-top blanket ban on transgender women athletes is clear discrimination under Minnesota law, and we will fight for JayCee’s opportunity to compete.”

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