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U.S. court says a pageant can exclude transgender women in its competitions

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Wednesday that the operator of the Miss United States of America pageant can't be forced to allow openly transgender women into its competitions.
Justin Sullivan
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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Wednesday that the operator of the Miss United States of America pageant can't be forced to allow openly transgender women into its competitions.

The operator of the Miss United States of America pageant can't be forced to allow openly transgender women into its competitions, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The ruling said that being forced to do this would obstruct the organization's ability to express its belief the contest is only for "natural born" females.

Judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the complaint brought by Anita Green, an activist and trans woman. Green has claimed that Miss United States of America's eligibility rules, which expressly require contestants to be "natural born females," violate an anti-discrimination law in Oregon, where she lives.

Green first sued Miss United States of America LLC (which does business as United States of America Pageants) in an Oregon district court in 2019.

Green says she had reached out to pageant National Director Tanice Smith about changing policies and was denied. She applied to compete anyway, but had her application rejected.

Miss United States of America LLC is not to be confused with the Miss USA pageants, which do allow trans participants to compete.

Green called the pageant's policy arbitrary

"I don't think someone shouldn't be allowed to compete simply because they are transgender," Green said in a 2019 interview with NPR. "I think that that's very arbitrary. Transgender women are equal to cisgender women.

"To me, pageantry isn't just about the way a person looks. To me, it's about giving people a voice," Green said.

Miss United States of America's eligibility requirement is protected under the First Amendment's protection against compelled speech, the judges' order says. In their 2-1 ruling, the judges rejected Green's belief that this violates the Oregon Public Accommodations Act.

"The panel noted that it is commonly understood that beauty pageants are generally designed to express the 'ideal vision of American womanhood.' The Pageant would not be able to communicate 'the celebration of biological women' if it were forced to allow Green to participate," the order states.

The judges continued, "The panel concluded that forcing the Pageant to accept Green as a participant would fundamentally alter the Pageant's expressive message in direct violation of the First Amendment."

The order upheld an earlier district court ruling.

Attorneys for Green and Miss United States of America didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Jaclyn Diaz