Ryan is suing the DGPT, PDGA, and organizers of the OTB Open for violating California law
On the eve of the 2023 professional disc golf season, Natalie Ryan sued the PDGA, Disc Golf Pro Tour, and 1000 Rated Productions, the host of the OTB Open.
In a complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Ryan and her attorney Brian Sciacca argue that the PDGA policy effectively prohibiting transgender women from competing in the FPO division on the pro tour violated her civil rights and California laws against discrimination.
“The policy adopted by the PDGA and DGPT is arbitrary and capricious and in violation of Plaintiff’s right to be free from discrimination based on her gender,” the suit says.
It alleges that the PDGA’s new rules on the eligibility of transgender women to play in FPO for majors, which block from the competition trans women who have undergone gender-affirming treatment later than the age of 12, were a “direct response to [Ryan’s] success on the DGPT.”
The policy has “denied Plaintiff and other transgender women, who in the eyes of California law are women, full and equal access to the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, and/or services of Defendant’s organizations,” the complaint says.
Ryan is arguing that she should be protected under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against people on the basis of protected characteristics such as race, age, sex and sexual orientation. The state has some of the strongest legal protections for transgender people in the country, according to the Transgender Law Center.
The complaint also alleges two other counts, that the defendants are violating California’s “unfair competition” law, and “intentional[ly] interfer[ing] with prospective economic advantage.”
Ryan’s complaint asks for a variety of remedies, including an injunction allowing Ryan to compete in the OTB Open in California in May, and unspecified monetary damages include attorney fees. The lawsuit cites “economic losses, mental suffering, emotional distress, grief, anxiety, humiliation, shock, indignity, and embarrassment.”
Ryan’s agent Stephen Scansaroli recently told Ultiworld that she’s been on the receiving end of death threats since the rules on transgender women were put into place.
“As the 2023 Disc Golf Pro Tour kicks off today, I am deeply disappointed that the DGPT has chosen to exclude Natalie, and other trans women from the tour,” said Sciacca, Ryan’s attorney, in a statement. “The DGPT’s decision was based on prejudice, the results of a deeply flawed survey of a small portion of the PDGA membership, and a report from the PDGA medical committee that would receive a failing grade if turned in by an undergraduate at a reputable university. Our attempts to get the DGPT to reconsider its decision based on legitimate research … were summarily dismissed, leaving us with no choice but to pursue legal remedies.”
According to emails shared with Ultiworld, a lawyer representing the DGPT said that the organization had offered to “permit Natalie Ryan to play in MPO1 this year.”
“Her decision to decline this offer is unfortunate, given the fact that her participation in the MPO would give her a considerable amount of coverage to support current and future endorsements,” wrote the lawyer, Margaret Holland.
Sciacca wrote back that the offer was “insulting and tone deaf.”
“As your client well knows, Natalie would be rated at the very bottom of the field if she competed in the MPO division. Moreover, acceptance of that offer would be acceptance of the DGPT’s and the PDGA’s apparent belief that Natalie is not a woman,” he wrote.
Danny Voss, PDGA’s director of marketing, said the organization “does not comment on pending litigation.”
“We’re aware of the complaint, but we cannot comment on ongoing/current legal matters,” said DGPT communications director Charles McCracken.
1000 Rated Productions did not respond to a request for comment.
Ryan posted on Instagram about the decision to take legal action at this point in time.
“Today the Cis Golf Pro Tour begins and to celebrate I got them a gift, my court case has officially been filed!” she wrote. “I have been rather quiet lately, and while the silence was nice for a while it would be a shame if I let that continue. I refuse to let a few ignorant people remove my joy for this game without a fight. My rights are mine and I will be damned if I’m going to roll over and let them take them!”
Ryan is currently registered in the FPO division for a number of A-Tiers in the coming months; those events do not use the same policy as majors or pro tour events.
The Mixed Professional Open division is eligible to all players, but has historically almost exclusively included men. There are rare exceptions, including when top FPO players played at the US Disc Golf Championship before the founding of the Throw Pink Women’s Championship. ↩