Court upholds beauty pageant's right to bar trans man-to-woman entrant

‘Natural-born’ females ONLY: Judges uphold Miss USA pageant’s right to bar trans man-to-woman entrant four years after she competed in Miss Montana competition

  • Judges back Miss United States of America’s decision to reject trans entrant
  • Parent company United States of America Pageants insists on ‘natural-born’ females
  • It barred Oregonian trans activist Anita Green from competing in 2019
  • She sued under Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws, but judges repeatedly ruled against her
  • Pageants are covered by America’s strong free speech rules, judges said
  • Beauty contests are allowed to pursue their own ‘ideal vision of American womanhood’
  • Green says she is glad to have spotlighted anti-trans discrimination 

Judges have upheld the right of Miss United States of America to bar a trans man-to-woman competitor, saying organizers can insist on only ‘natural-born’ females taking part in its beauty contest.

A San Francisco-based appeals court rejected the lawsuit of Anita Green, a trans activist and frequent beauty pageant contestant, who had said organizers violated her rights when they barred her from competing in 2019.

Green, from Clackamas, Oregon, sued the company in federal court in Portland under the state’s anti-discrimination laws after her application to take part in the pageant was rejected.

She has competed in several pageants, including Miss Montana USA, and Ms. World Universal. In 2019, she won the title of Miss Earth Elite Oregon.

Lawyers for the pageant said its contest was designed to celebrate and promote ‘natural-born women,’ by sending a message of ‘biological female empowerment.’

Green, a native of Clackamas, Oregon, has said she was pleased that her lawsuit drew attention to discrimination in the world of beauty pageants 

Green says it was ‘very difficult’ to grow up as a trans woman, and that she didn’t realize she was transgender until her late teens because she lacked information

The competition has several requirements for entrants, including some based on contestants’ age, marital status and gender identity.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision ruled that the Oregon law, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, was trumped by the pageant’s free speech rights under the US Constitution.

The court agreed with the company that it expresses its views on womanhood by deciding who can compete.

‘As with theater, cinema, or the Super Bowl halftime show, beauty pageants combine speech with live performances such as music and dancing to express a message,’ Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote.

‘While the content of that message varies from pageant to pageant, it is commonly understood that beauty pageants are generally designed to express the ideal vision of American womanhood.’

Forcing the pageant to include a transgender contestant would amount to ‘compelled speech’ —  a violation of the First Amendment, the three-judge panel ruled on Wednesday.

She said the pageant ‘is on the wrong side of history for choosing to actively discriminate against transgender people, but the road to creating meaningful change has always been a long and bumpy one’

In 2018, Green made history as the first transgender woman to compete in the Miss Montana USA pageant. She is seen third from left in the above photo

‘The First Amendment affords the Pageant the ability to voice this message, and to enforce its ‘natural-born female’ rule,’ the court found.

John Kaempf, the attorney representing the pageant company and its owner, Tanice Smith, said the 9th Circuit’s dismissal was a matter of ‘simple fairness.’

‘The Ninth Circuit’s conclusion says it all: ‘Green asks to use the power of the state to force Miss United States of America to express a message contrary to what it desires to express. The First Amendment says no,’ Kaempf said.

Miss United States of America is run by United States of America Pageants, which is distinct from Miss USA, the contest once owned by former president Donald Trump.

Last year, after a lower court ruling sided with the pageant, Green said she was disappointed but that the case spotlighted anti-trans discrimination in the world of beauty contests.

Miss United States of America is run by United States of America Pageants, which is distinct from Miss USA, the contest once owned by former President Donald Trump.

Pageant rules state that the competition is only open to those who are ‘natural born female’

‘The road to creating meaningful change has always been a long and bumpy one,’ Green said at the time.

‘Transgender women are women. My message has always been consistent, and my message is this: every person has beauty.’

Green made history in 2018 as the first transgender woman to compete in the Miss Montana USA pageant.

Two years prior, the politically active Green made history by becoming the first openly transgender person elected as a national delegate to a nominating convention.

She represented Oregon at the Democratic National Convention, in which she declared her support for Senator Bernie Sanders.

Green, who has been a member of the executive board of the Missoula County Democrats, thought about entering the competition in the past, but never felt ready until the 2016 presidential election.

Green says it was ‘very difficult’ to grow up as a trans woman, and that she didn’t realize she was transgender until her late teens because she lacked information.

She says she felt like she was ‘living a lie’ for years and became depressed.

Aged 17, Anita came out as transgender, and began hormone replacement therapy the following year. She has lived ‘full-time’ as Anita since turning 19.

Transgender issues have gained special significance in the US and frequently feature in ferocious ‘culture war’ rows between liberals and conservatives.

Polls show Americans are divided on the issues, but hew to traditional gender norms.

A Pew Research Center poll in May found that most Americans — 60 percent — said sex was determined at birth, rather than by an individual’s choice, while 46 percent favored laws against providing children with medical care to transition.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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