Lana Lawless, a transgender woman and the 2008 Women's Long Drive Association (LDA) winner, has filed suit against the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the LDA for violation of her civil rights. Lawless, a professional golfer, applied to join the LPGA's qualifying events in order to be eligible to join the tour; however, the LPGA rejected her application based on its rules that require all players, to qualify and compete, must be born female.
Lawless, a former male special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team member, has undergone a complete gender reassignment and is legally female. The suit, filed late October 12, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (CV 104599), claims that the LPGA and its sponsor CVS have engaged in discrimination based on sex/transgender status in violation of California's landmark UNHRU anti-discrimination law which protects transgender persons from discrimination in the provision of goods, services and contracts.
The suit also claims that, after Lawless won the Re/Max Woman's LDA championship, the LDA changed its rules to exclude her from participating in future contests by adopting the LPGA's "born female" requirement.
Lawless' attorney, Christopher Dolan of The Dolan Law Firm in San Francisco, stated, "California's civil rights laws prevent discrimination against all minorities, including transgender persons. The LPGA and LDA operate a number of high profile qualifying events and tournaments in California which are highly lucrative to their sponsors."
"There are a handful of states which protect the civil rights of transgender persons. The intended outcome of this suit is to force the LPGA and the LDA to change their unlawful practices or be precluded from operating within California and other states, such as New York, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual reassignment. They will have to choose between continuing with their tournaments or their discrimination," continued Dolan.
The suit, filed the day before the CVS LPGA Challenge at the Black Hawk Country Club in Danville, Calif., seeks to enjoin the LPGA and LDA from hosting their tournaments and/or qualifying events in California as long as they exclude transgender women from participating. It also seeks damages against the LPGA, LDA, and their sponsors, CVS, Re/Max and Dick's Sporting Goods, for violating Lawless' civil rights and for interfering with her ability to earn a living as a professional golfer.
According to Lawless, "I have traveled a long road to get to where I am now, a place where I always belonged as a strong, proud, capable woman. I am, in all respects, legally, and physically female. The State of California recognizes me as such and the LPGA should not be permitted to come into California and blatantly violate my rights. I just want to have the same opportunity to play professional golf as any other woman."
In stark contrast to the LPGA and LDA, the U.S. Golf Association has a Gender Policy which expressly includes gender reassigned females in its tournaments and activities. The International Olympic Committee, since 2004, has included transpeople in Olympic events. Likewise, the NCAA has a policy of inclusion for transpeople.
"I could participate in female wrestling in international Olympic events but, here in my own state, in my chosen profession, because of blatant prejudice, I am excluded and discriminated against," added Lawless. "Before I won the Re/Max Women's LDA Championship, the only requirement for participation was that I was over 18 and female. As a result of my winning the tournament, which was based on my skill, and not my gender, they changed the rules to require that I be born female. This is not only unlawful, it is shameful."
"It is important to fight intolerance wherever it rears its ugly head. This unlawful activity harkens back to the days when African Americans were precluded from qualifying and playing in professional golf tournaments. As Americans, we must always be vigilant against the poison and hatred bred from prejudice and discrimination. America was founded on the principal of tolerance for differences in beliefs and, over time, that principal has been recognized to include protection against discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, etc. The LPGA can't be permitted to violate California law. It is important for all Americans to protect against prejudice and preserve anti-discrimination laws; who know when they may find themselves in need of their protection." added Dolan.
UPDATE: LPGA votes to reverse its discriminatory policy: read more