Beauty pageant can ban transgender contestants, US appeals court rules

A federal appeals court on Wednesday said a national beauty pageant has a First Amendment right to exclude a transgender woman from the pageant because including her would interfere with the pageant’s message. she posts “what it means to be a woman.”

The decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for the United States Court of Appeals came in response to a lawsuit filed by Anita Green, who claimed that the Miss United States of America pageant violated Oregon’s state anti-discrimination law when it was barring him from competing in 2019.

Green, who is transgender, has competed in several pageants including Miss Montana USA, Miss Earth and Miss World Universal. She lived in Clackamas, Oregon and was preparing to compete in the Miss United States of America’s Miss Oregon pageant when she said the organization rejected her application because they did not consider her a “natural born woman. “

Green sued, arguing that the agency was violating a state law that makes it a crime to deny public housing to people based on their sex or gender.

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But attorneys for the Miss United States of America Pageants said the pageant is designed to celebrate and promote “natural women,” sending a message of “natural female empowerment.” The contest has several requirements for contestants, including some based on contestants’ age, marital status, and gender identity.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit voted 2-1 in favor of the contest organization, saying that forcing the contest to include a transgender woman would significantly alter the message the winner is trying to send.

Like plays, movies, or the Super Bowl halftime show, performers combine speech and performance such as music and dance to convey a message,” Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote for many. And although the content of the message which vary from pageant to pageant, it is commonly understood that beauty pageant games are generally designed to define an ‘ideal vision of American womanhood.’

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The appeals court agreed with the lower court’s decision that someone who sees the pageant’s decision to exclude transgender women may understand that pageant organizers do not believe that transgender women qualify as women.

“The First Amendment gives the Pageant the power to express this message, and to enforce its ‘natural-born woman’ rule,” the appeals court found.

Forcing the contest to include a transgender contestant would amount to “compelled speech,” — a violation of the First Amendment — and the fact that the contest was a commercial venture was not enough to defeat that speech. free, the team found. .

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In a dissenting opinion, Judge Susan P. Graber said the majority skipped important steps in deciding whether the First Amendment applies. The court should have first considered whether Oregon state law applied to the case, which may have settled the case before the justices had to consider the First Amendment question, Graber said.

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John Kaempf, an attorney representing the sports organization and its owner, Tanice Smith, said the 9th Circuit’s dismissal was a matter of “simple injustice.”

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision says: ‘Green is asking to use state power to compel Miss United States of America to express a message contrary to what she wishes to convey. The First Amendment says no,'” Kaempf said.

Green referred The Associated Press to his attorney, Shenoa Payne, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After a lower court upheld the contest last year, Green said he was disappointed but the case raised awareness of discrimination against transgender people in the sports circuit.

“I believe that Miss United States of America is on the wrong side of history for choosing to discriminate against transgender people, but the road to creating meaningful change has been long and difficult,” Green said. at that time. “Transgender women are women. My message has always been consistent and my message is this: everyone has beauty.”

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