Trans player Julie Curtiss takes legal action over English rugby ban

Legal action issued to the English Rugby Football Union could set a precedent for a similar action in Ireland.

Photograph of Hove English women's rugby team after they winning a cup.
Image: @wrfcladies via Twitter

The English Rugby Football Union (RFU) is facing a legal challenge to its recently imposed ban on Trans women competing in contact rugby. 

It was revealed on Saturday that a pre-action protocol letter was issued to the RFU by Trans woman Julie Curtiss. 

The report in the Telegraph claims that London-based law firm Russell Cooke issued the legal document (filed with the intention of resolving a dispute prior to the commencement of court proceedings) on behalf of Curtiss who is one of seven registered Trans women players impacted by the ban.

Prior to the introduction of the new ban, which was introduced in July this year, individual athletes were assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, the new regulation applies a blanket ban on all Trans women from participating in women’s teams.  

The firm maintains that in order for the RFU’s new policy to be upheld, it must demonstrate that the blanket ban is deemed “necessary” under section 195(2) of the Equality Act 2010.

Curtiss and her legal team have called on English rugby to be more transparent about their decision to implement the ban by disclosing the number of Trans and cis players that were consulted ahead of the vote. In addition, they have called on the RFU to reveal accurate statistics on the number of injuries involving Trans women.

In the protocol letter, Curtiss’s firm suggests, “Allowing a particular trans woman to play in the female category for contact rugby may not raise any issues in respect of fair competition or the safety of competitors, and if so her exclusion cannot be justified.”

A spokesperson from the RFU told the Telegraph, “We are in receipt of a pre-action letter of claim and will be responding via our appointed lawyers… We believe any potential claim is without merit and we will robustly defend the case.”

It is believed that the move in the UK may set a precedent for a similar case to be taken here in Ireland against the IRFU. According to a report in the Business Post, legal experts have described the IRFU’s ban as “entirely disproportionate” and that it could be “in breach of equality law”.

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