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Transgender woman sues LPGA for birth rule

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SAN FRANCISCO — Lana Lawless, a former police officer who underwent a sex change operation five years ago, is challenging the LPGA’s ban on transgender players.

She filed a federal lawsuit late Tuesday in San Francisco federal court claiming the LPGA’s “female at birth” requirement for competitors violates a California civil rights law.

Lawless is seeking to prevent the LPGA from holding tournaments in the state until the organization changes its policy to admit transgender players. She is also seeking unspecified damages.

Lawless, 57, also sued three LPGA sponsors and the Long Drivers of America, which holds the annual women’s long-drive golf championship. Lawless won the event in 2008 with a 254-yard drive but was barred from competing this year after organizers adopted the LPGA’s gender rules.

“I am, in all respects, legally, and physically female,” Lawless said in a statement Wednesday. “The state of California recognizes me as such and the LPGA should not be permitted to come into California and blatantly violate my rights. I just want to have the same opportunity to play professional golf as any other woman.”

LPGA spokesman David Higdon declined to comment because the organization hasn’t seen the lawsuit. A spokesman for the Long Drivers of America also declined to comment.

Lawless said the LPGA is one of the few athletic organizations to bar transgender competitors. She noted that the International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes since 2004 as long as the competitor underwent surgery and at least two years of hormone-replacement therapy.

“I could participate in female wrestling in international Olympic events,” said Lawless.

The LPGA’s CVS/pharmacy Challenge tournament begins Thursday in Danville.

“Transgender discrimination is at the forefront of civil rights,” said Christopher Dolan, Lawless’ attorney. “Transgender people have been pushed into the dark for too long.”

Dolan cited the same state civil rights law when he represented a transgender woman who sued a Catholic hospital chain in 2008 for refusing to perform breast implant surgery. Catholic Healthcare West agreed to change its policy and paid Charlene Hastings $200,000 to settle the lawsuit.

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