LPGA Passes Vote to Allow Transgender Membership
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

Lana Lawless, a transgender woman, is suing the LPGA

The LPGA voted to lift the “female at birth” clause in its constitution bylaws on Tuesday evening at a player meeting in Grand Cypress Hyatt, just a hop, skip and small jump away from the site of this week’s LPGA Tour Championship.

Commissioner Mike Whan presented the situation, citing examples of other organizations that allow transgender membership, such as the USGA and IOC. The move to amend the clause was easily passed, says an LPGA player, who wishes to remain anonymous. The players understand it was in the best interest of the LPGA to make the change (whether or not they personally agree with it) because it would have been a losing battle to contend the lawsuit filed by Lana Lawless, a 57-year-old transgender woman who had gender reassignment surgery in 2005.

Lawless’ lawyer threatened to seek an injunction to prevent the LPGA from doing business in California if the members voted against overturning the clause that all members have to be female at birth. However, Lawless is still suing the LPGA for lost pay.

While the players have their personal opinions and some didn’t agree with it, they voted in favor of the move. Earlier in the day, several players said they would have liked Lawless to attend the meeting, so she could explain her case because they wanted to make a well-informed decision. But when the time came to vote, the players were aware that the precedent had been set by other organizations and it became a non-issue. They also didn’t want the controversy to overshadow an exciting tournament week with the season-ending Tour Championship.

Whan shared the 2011 schedule with the players at the meeting, too. Apparently there were no surprises and it’s better than expected. Some events aren’t set in stone, so the LPGA is holding off on making any announcements, but the players were told for planning purposes. Compared to the total money from this season, the ladies will have more earning potential next season. Whan and the LPGA are working on some deals that could still come into fruition for 2011. But word is that 2012 looks very promising for the tour.