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New York county loses bid to prevent state legal challenge of its ban on female transgender athletes

NEW YORK (AP) — A county outside New York City has lost its bid to block the state from taking legal action against its ban on women’s and girls teams that include female transgender players, state Attorney General Letitia James said Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge Nusrat Choudhury dismissed Nassau County’s lawsuit seeking to prevent the Democratic attorney general from taking legal action against the county for its ban, which James has said is “transphobic” and violates the state's anti-discrimination laws.

“This decision is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law, but our work here is not done,” James’ office said in an emailed statement Friday. “It’s past time for Nassau County to rescind this order and treat all our communities with the basic respect and dignity they deserve.”

The office declined to say when or if it will sue to block the ban, saying it will review the decision, which was handed down in federal court in Central Islip.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who issued the ban, vowed to appeal. “We vehemently disagree with the decision,” he said in an emailed statement.

Last month, James issued a “cease and desist” letter demanding the Long Island county rescind the ban, prompting Blakeman to file a federal lawsuit asking a judge to affirm that the ban was legal and to prevent James from taking action against it.

The Republican argued that any action by the state to block the ban would be discriminatory and represent a violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

James' office, however, rejected the notion, arguing in its motion to toss out the litigation that the county's lawsuit is “bare of any legal or factual support" to back up its claim. The equal protection clause, enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Earlier this month, Choudhury denied Nassau County’s request for a temporary restraining order against James’ office but didn't rule on the legality of the ban or James’ request to simply toss out the lawsuit.

The county's ban also faces a legal challenge from a local women’s roller derby league, which has asked a state court to invalidate it.

Blakeman's February order, which affects more than 100 public facilities in the county just east of the New York City borough of Queens, states that any female sports organization that accepts transgender women or girls will be denied permits to use county-owned parks and fields.

Echoing the arguments of officials who have taken similar actions in other Republican-led cities and states, the county says women and girls will be discriminated against and their constitutional rights violated if transgender athletes are allowed to compete alongside them.

Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press