US appeals court ruling in Oregon case: Beauty pageant can bar trans contestants

A federal appeals court says a national beauty pageant has a First Amendment right to exclude a transgender woman from the pageant, because including her would interfere with the contestant’s intended message. “the ideal woman.”

Wednesday’s decision by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals came in response to a lawsuit filed by Anita Green, who claimed the Miss United States of America pageant violated an Oregon state law against discrimination when you prevented him from competing in 2019.

Green, who is transgender, has competed in several pageants including Miss Montana USA and Miss Universe. She was living 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 lawyers for the Miss United States of America Pageants said the pageant program is designed to celebrate and promote “natural women,” by 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 the theater, the cinema, or the Super Bowl halftime show, publicists combine speech and drama such as music and dance to convey a message,” Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote for many. And while the content of that message varies from pageant to pageant, it is understood that in general beauty pageants are designed to express the ‘ideal vision of American womanhood.'”

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.

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“The First Amendment gives the Representative the power to preach 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 entry was not enough to defeat that speech. free, the team found. .

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.

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

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“The Ninth Circuit’s decision says it all: “Green is asking to use state power to force Ms. United States of America to express a message contrary to what she wants to express. 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 in choosing to discriminate against transgender people, but the road to creating meaningful change has been long and difficult,” Green said. said at the time. “Transgender women are women. My message has always been the same, and my message is this: everyone has beauty.


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