The District Court finds that Ryan "is likely to succeed on the merits in this case."
June 28, 2023 by Charlie Eisenhood in News
A Minnesota judge granted Natalie Ryan’s motion for a temporary injunction against the new eligibility policy from the Disc Golf Pro Tour and Professional Disc Golf Association, which will require the DGPT to allow her to play in the FPO division at this weekend’s Preserve event in Clearwater, Minnesota.
“I want to say that I am incredibly thankful for the court seeing me as the woman that I am and that I deserve to play in FPO,” said Ryan. “I can’t wait to compete, and I aim to do my best!” Ryan finished 18th at last year’s Preserve.
Minnesota District Court judge Kari Willis wrote that this case “involved issues strikingly similar” to those in JayCee Cooper v. USA Powerlifting, in which a different Minnesota District Court ruled in favor of a transgender female powerlifter, requiring the governing body to allow her to compete in the women’s division.
Judege Willis wrote that Ryan may be facing discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. “[The PDGA and DGPT’s] arguments to distinguish the Cooper care are not persuasive,” wrote the judge. “Based on this Court’s reasoning, along with the detailed analysis and holdings in the Cooper case which this Court finds compelling and persuasive, this Court finds that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits in this case.”
“This motion filed against the PDGA and the DGPT has now been granted by the court and will allow her to compete in the FPO division at the Preserve Championship,” wrote the DGPT in a statement. “The DGPT disagrees with the decision but will comply with the order, and the event will continue as planned.”
This ruling for a temporary injunction only serves as a stopgap to prevent the PDGA and DGPT from applying their gender eligibility policy this weekend; any permanent ruling will come later, following a full trial. Ryan said she is being represented pro bono by her Minnesota attorneys.
One key argument from the defense was that Ryan waited far too long to file a request for a temporary injunction, given that she had known for months that this tournament would be taking place in Minnesota and what the DGPT rules regarding participation would be.
“[The PDGA and DGPT] do raise a valid point regarding the timeliness of the filing of [Ryan’s] motion, based on when [she] knew of the PDGA’s new policy and the impact it would have on her ability to compete at the Preserve Championship,” wrote Judge Willis. “However, this Court is not in a position to determine, nor will it engage in speculation regarding any tactical or strategic decision-making surrounding the timing of the motion. Even if the Court acknowledges the suspect nature of the timeline, such suppositions are not fatal to [Ryan’s] claim.”
The PDGA and DGPT could opt to file for an emergency appeal, as they did in California, but they appear less likely to succeed: in California, there was a clear jurisdictional argument in their favor that the lower court ignored. That jurisdictional issue is not at issue in Minnesota.