LPGA drops ‘female at birth’ clause

LPGA players have voted to allow transgender players to compete on tour in response to a lawsuit filed by a California woman who had her sex changed five years ago.

The players voted to remove the ”female at birth” requirement from the tour’s constitution at a year-end meeting at the LPGA Tour Championship, Commissioner Michael Whan said. He said steps will be taken in the coming weeks to make the change.

Players competing this week in Orlando mostly were satisfied with the change.

”We don’t need to comment on this because it’s a dead issue,” Cristie Kerr said Wednesday. ”She can compete if she can qualify. We certainly don’t want to discriminate against anybody; that’s not what the LPGA is about. And if she can qualify, she’ll be able to play. We’re like the last sports organization to do it; it’s just we’ve never really had to look at it before.

”It was just a formality more than anything,” Kerr continued. ”It was just a piece of language that said female instead of female at birth. We’re talking about two words. This person was just filing a lawsuit against us because we had two words in our rules.”

Lana Lawless, a former police officer who had a sex change operation five years ago, filed the federal lawsuit in San Francisco in October claiming the ”female at birth” requirement violated California’s civil rights law. The 57-year-old was seeking to prevent the LPGA from conducting tournaments in the state until it changed its policy.

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

Lawless’s attorney, Christopher Dolan, did not immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment.

Other players who were asked about the vote said they didn’t think a transgender player would be an issue should one qualify to play on tour.

”There’s really nothing to say,” Suzann Pettersen said. ”When an organization like the (International Olympic Committee) decides to accept those changes, there’s no reason for the LPGA not to. So for my point of view, it was the natural way to go.”