Cooper vs USA Powerlifting, also known as Cooper vs USAPL, is a Minnesota lawsuit concerning the participation of transgender women in the women’s division of USA Powerlifting’s competitions. This emerged after USA Powerlifting banned trans women from participating in their women’s division. The plaintiff, trans powerlifter JayCee Cooper, was represented by the organization Gender Justice, while the defendants were the legal team of USA Powerlifting.
On January 12, 2023 the judge overseeing the case ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, deciding that the policy implemented by USA Powerlifting was discriminatory against trans individuals, giving the organization 14 days to draft a new one that abides by the Minnesotan laws concerning nondiscrimination.
USAPL has engaged in unfair discriminatory practices by denying Cooper the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation because of sexual orientation and because of sex.
In December of 2018 Minnesotan powerlifter JayCee Cooper, after months of extensive training and already being approved to participate as a woman, sought to participate in a competition with USA Powerlifting (USAPL) - the United States’ premier powerlifting organization. Contrary to policies from all other dominant powerlifting organizations, they informed her that she would not be able to participate due to being transgender, and as such revoked her competition card. During this period, they did not have a formal ban on trans participation.
In January of 2019, USA Powerlifting implemented a ban against trans women competing as women in official competitions, even if their testosterone levels were equivalent to that of cis women for over two years. Around this time, Cooper revealed to the national press how this ban affected her, and how it left her unable to compete.
Cooper filed a discrimination claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in the same year, before eventually being represented by the Minnesota trans legal advocacy organization Gender Justice on January 12, 2021 after negotiations and mediation following the 2019 claim fell through.
This lawsuit lasted over two years before being resolved on February 27 of 2023. The entirety of the legal battle took place in the State of Minnesota’s District Court, specifically in the Ramsey County District Court located in St. Paul.
Decision and Impact
District Court Judge Patrick C. Diamond made his ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, indicating that the policy as implemented by USA Powerlifting was discriminatory against transgender individuals, thus allowing trans individuals to participate in competitions held by the organization.
Of the ruling, attorney David Schlesinger said “After today’s ruling, we are one step closer to making sure trans athletes like JayCee, and trans people everywhere in Minnesota, can pursue their dreams and goals without experiencing discrimination simply for being who they are."
USA Powerlifting was given 14 days to revise their policy to be in line with Minnesota’s anti-discrimination laws. As a result of the decision, USA Powerlifting announced that they would no longer operate in Minnesota rather than comply with the decision by the court.
For the plaintiffs:
- Eric Vilain
For the defendants:
- Emma N. Hilton
- Jon Pike
- Tommy R. Lundberg
- Lawrence J. Maile
- Kristopher Hunt