May 9, 2023 by Ultiworld Disc Golf Staff in Analysis, News
Natalie Ryan’s lawsuit against the DGPT and PDGA on the basis of her transgender status has again picked up steam ahead of the weekend’s OTB Open in Stockton, California. The parties are set for a Wednesday hearing in Sacramento that will determine whether Ryan is eligible to participate at the Pro Tour event.
The case, which stems from PDGA policies enacted late last year, has been relatively quiet. Ryan’s lawyers initially filed claims against the DGPT, PDGA, and 1000 Rated Productions (the organizer of the OTB Open) in late February. We were awaiting a formal defense filing sometime in mid-June. But things accelerated last week when Ryan’s lawyers filed a motion requesting a temporary restraining order to allow her to play at the OTB Open.
As we covered in our initial analysis piece, Ryan’s complaint against the PDGA involves a number of substantive discrimination claims — effectively alleging that she is being discriminated against on the basis of being transgender, and that such discrimination is contrary to California state law.
However, the latest set of filings are more procedural in nature and unlikely to result in a definitive or final legal victory for either side.
At the heart of Ryan’s latest filings is a request for the District Court to issue a temporary restraining order that would allow her to play at the OTB Open. Ryan’s attorney argues that she will be irreparably harmed if the Tour’s discriminatory policies remain in place and she’s not allowed to compete at OTB; he’s also argued that Ryan previously indicated to DGPT would seek such injunctive relief.
The DGPT asserted a number of arguments opposing Ryan’s claim — many of them boil down to asking the court to adhere to a typical litigation schedule, and not accelerate the case by issuing the temporary restraining order. Generally speaking, courts require a high burden from plaintiffs before issuing a temporary restraining order — and DGPT argues Ryan hasn’t met that burden. In particular, DGPT suggests that Ryan had plenty of time to file a request for an injunction at any of the five prior Tour events; instead, Ryan waited until the week before the OTB Open and asserted the emergency filing. Another procedural wrinkle that DGPT argued in defense is that the parties had originally set a June 13 date for DGPT’s response to Ryan’s lawsuit, and that the court should adhere to that original timeline. There are additional procedural defenses asserted by DGPT, including alleged service of process failures by Ryan’s legal team and claims that the California court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
Given the number of procedural arguments that developed in the past week over the case, and how many relate to the OTB Open, we expect that any ruling tomorrow will focus on those issues and is less likely to represent a final ruling or even be in favor of the ultimate prevailing party. In particular for Ryan, she could lose on some claims related to the restraining order but then later find traction in her substantive discrimination briefs, especially if she is able to keep the case in California or win the argument that California’s anti-discrimination laws apply to her. If, however, the DGPT were to suffer a loss at this early stage — when they appear to have credible arguments around possible procedural defects — it would foreshadow a tough road ahead for them.
The latest filings from the DGPT also indicate an increased level of legal investment in their defense: They’ve hired a new law firm with experience in sports law litigation. That law firm began laying out the ultimate legality defense for DGPT’s eligibility rules, including arguments that their gender policy is lawful.
Ultiworld Disc Golf Subscribers, read on for more on the PDGA/DGPT filings and what they signal about the arguments they will make in the case moving forward.
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