CA Judge Rules in Favor of Natalie Ryan, Who Will Compete in OTB Open This Weekend

A Federal District Court granted Ryan's request for a temporary restraining order.

Natalie Ryan at the 2022 OTB Open. Photo: DGPT

A Federal District Court in California today granted Natalie Ryan’s motion for a temporary restraining order against the new eligibility policy from the Disc Golf Pro Tour and Professional Disc Golf Association, paving the way for Natalie Ryan to play at this weekend’s DGPT OTB Open event in Stockton, California. Ryan has registered on Disc Golf Scene and is listed as registered on the PDGA event page. The victory for Ryan comes after a Wednesday court hearing, and the DGPT has already filed its notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Today is a momentous win for trans athletes and I will see you all at OTB,” said Ryan on Instagram. “Thank you your honor, for passing me a match. My fire is going to burn brighter than ever this weekend.”

In the 15-page order (posted below) from District Judge Troy Nunley, the Court found that Ryan established “serious questions” as to the lawfulness of the eligibility policy, and she was prevented from competing in the OTB Open “based exclusively on her status as a transgender woman.” The court focused on section C.3 of the eligibility policy, which “appears to directly target an individual’s sex and gender by creating a temporal line when one must transition.”

In a separate section of the order, the court contrasted the PDGA’s eligibility policy with those from other sports organizations – the IOC, the NCAA, NWSL, and WNBA – and noted differences and likely deficiencies with the PDGA’s policy which “counsel in favor of granting the [Temporary Restraining Order in favor of Ryan].” The court also found there “is currently insufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that [Ryan] has an unfair or disproportionate competitive advantage,” and that such assumption was based on her transgender status.

“We certainly disagree with the decision, a little disappointed with the decision,” said DGPT CEO Jeff Spring, who testified in yesterday’s court hearing. “But, at the same time, we’re ready to comply respectfully with the decision. I think Natalie’s already on site practicing.”

The opinion also addressed a number of the key arguments that developed over the past week, as the case accelerated ahead of the upcoming OTB Open. In particular, there were extensive filings and testimony at the hearing regarding whether the case belonged in Federal Court or would need to be moved to a state court, due to a federal court requirement of having citizens from different states (diversity jurisdiction). DGPT argued that it has owners in the state of Virginia (the same state Ryan is a citizen of).1

Ultimately, the order expressed “some skepticism as to jurisdiction in [the] case,” but also noted there was “insufficient evidence at this time to establish” the lack of jurisdiction, notwithstanding corporate documents and drivers licenses that were filed with the court in the last 24 hours. The order also included a finding that the case could proceed against the PDGA even if DGPT were removed as a defendant due to lack of jurisdiction. It is likely that the jurisdiction issues will be a main subject of the upcoming appeals.

Another major debate in the parties’ filings was whether Ryan had delayed filing her case too long and should be forced to wait for additional arguments rather than being able to participate at OTB this weekend. “As an initial matter, the Court agrees that Plaintiff [Ryan] delayed filing the instant TRO,” waited to seek “last-minute relief,” and created “needless urgency” – but also found that delay did not “nullif[y] her irreparable harm.” The order found the potential emotional distress and psychological harm for Ryan outweighed the delay, which was one of the DGPT’s key arguments (along with the jurisdictional issues) based on their recent filings.

Our earlier article suggested the DGPT’s best chance was to win on these preliminary procedural matters, and that the California non-discrimination laws otherwise were favorable to Ryan. The order – while technically preliminary – indicates that the Court expects Ryan will ultimately prevail over DGPT on her substantive non-discrimination claims even as the case continues.

Here is the full order from District Judge Troy Nunley:

TRO Opinion in Ryan vs. PDGA

  1. If the DGPT can show that it has shareholders of its parent LLC that live in Virginia, then the federal courts could not hear the case outside of Virginia. 

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  1. Ultiworld Disc Golf Staff
    Ultiworld Disc Golf Staff

    Ultiworld Disc Golf is the premier news media site for the sport of disc golf. Like us on Facebook and follow on Twitter to keep up on all the latest.

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