LPGA to amend ‘female at birth’ policy

ORLANDO, Fla. – The days of the LPGA’s banning transgender golfers from the women’s tour are coming to an end.

LPGA players have voted to remove the “female at birth” requirement from the tour’s constitution, and most players interviewed before this week’s LPGA Tour Championship at Grand Cypress Golf Club agree with the change.

The vote, during a players meeting Nov. 28, was called in response to a lawsuit filed by a 57-year-old California woman who had her sex changed five years ago.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said players voted at a year-end meeting to amend the constitution. Whan says steps will be taken in the coming weeks to make the change, which would be consistent with eligibility policies of the International Olympic Committee, U.S. Golf Association and Ladies European Tour, among others.

“I think it is a major civil rights victory,” Christopher Dolan, an attorney for Lawless, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday. “We are pleased that the LPGA has voted to end this archaic and outdated policy.”

Dolan cautioned that the final changes are not expected for a couple weeks. But he was optimistic the LPGA’s amended policy would allow complete access for transgenders.

“You can vote to end nuclear proliferation, but if you’re still pointing the weapons, all you have is a vote,” Dolan said.

He added there were no immediate plans to drop the lawsuit, especially with Long Drivers of America offering no immediate changes to the policy, but that the lawsuit could be amended before a January hearing.

Many players competing this week in Orlando were satisfied with the change.

“It really put in perspective what they have to go through,’’ Brittany Lincicome said. “It’s something we should have already changed. We’re a little behind.’’

Christina Kim, calling the LPGA “a progressive group,’’ had a simple reason as to why the ban suddenly had become an issue.

“We were one of the last,’’ Kim said, “partly because it had never been an issue before.’’

Lana Lawless, a former police officer who had a sex-change operation five years ago, made it an issue Oct. 12 when she filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco claiming the “female at birth” requirement violated California’s civil-rights law. Lawless, of Palm Springs, was seeking to prevent the LPGA from holding tournaments in the state until it changed its policy.

The LPGA will return to California in late March for the Kia Classic, followed by the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Lawless also sued the Long Drivers of America, which followed the LPGA policy.

– Beth Ann Baldry contributed

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