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Conservative Judge Allows Beauty Pageant to Ban Trans Contestants

beauty queen

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the discriminatory pageant organization as Miss USA rather than Miss United States of America. Miss USA, along with sister organization Miss Universe, allow trans women to compete. We apologize for the error.

A federal judge in Oregon has quashed a suit brought by Anita Noelle Green that challenged the Miss United States of America's policy of excluding transgender contestants.

Green was a successful trans beauty queen in 2019, competing in the Miss Montana contest and winning the crown of Miss Elite Earth Oregon. That same year, producers of the Miss United States of America pageant reached out to Green and encouraged her to enter their pageant, according to them. Afterwards, pageant representatives returned her $195 entry fee and told her she couldn't compete because the competition only allowed "natural born women" assigned female at birth.

Green, Oregon's first trans delegate at a Democratic National Convention, sued the organization for gender discrimination; Oregon law bans discrimination based on gender identity. What appeared like a cut-and-dried case of bias — numerous pageants, including the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants (separate entities from Miss United States of America) pageants allow trans women to compete — was rejected by Judge Michael W. Mosman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Mosman, a member of the anti-LGBTQ+ Mormon Church and appointed to the federal bench of President George W. Bush — ruled Miss United States of America had a right to ban trans contestants on First Amendment grounds that protect free speech.

Mosman's ruling declared the pageant was an "expressive" organization and not a commercial one and was therefore not required to abide by antidiscrimination laws. Mosman's anti-trans ruling came down Thursday, the same day the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in numerous facets of life, including housing, credit, and public accommodations.

Lawyers for the Miss United States of America pageant were routinely cruel in their defense of their discriminatory practices, them points out. Court papers for the defense routinely misgendered Green and referred to her as a man. Miss United States of America attorneys also argued trans contestants would undermine their message of "biological female empowerment" — they suggested trans contestants compete in their own pageant. 

Even though the ruling was clearly not what she hoped for, Greene is proud of her efforts. She told The Oregonian her lawsuit brought attention to the fact that "discrimination against transgender people is still actively happening in the private and public sector even within the pageant circuit."

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