Gay Rights Group Sues Sports League over Discriminatory Action

Apr 27, 10 Gay Rights Group Sues Sports League over Discriminatory Action

By Delores Amorelli, staff writer of SEOLawFirm.com’s Newsroom Column ‘In Good Practice’ – April 27, 2010

Softball

Three bisexual male softball players from San Francisco recently filed suit against North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA). Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles and Jon Russ claim that the NAGAAA determined that they were not gay enough to participate in the series. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the organization filing suit on behalf of the players, is arguing that by enforcing a discriminatory rule that only allows two heterosexuals to play on each team, NAGAAA is breaking state public accommodations law. [1]

The three men involved in the suit were part of a softball team named D2, a team that went all the way to the championship game in the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle. Play during this final game was interrupted several times, due to complaints from a team who lost to D2 in the semifinals. The Atlanta Mudcats, who lost to D2 in a semifinal game, argued that the San Francisco team had too many “straights.” [2] As a result of this accusation, the three players were questioned regarding their sexual attractions and desires. [3] After being questioned, it was determined that the three players were “non gay” and their presence on the team was determined a violation of league rules. Therefore, D2 was stripped of its second place finish.

The players want $75,000 each for their emotional distress and want the team’s 2nd place finish to be restored, and they are also asking that the ruling remove the rule regarding the number of straight players allowed on a team. [4] Their case rests on their belief that the NAGAAA is a public organization and is thus bound by Washington’s anti-discrimination laws, which prevent public entities from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Melanie Rowan, a staff attorney for NCLR argued, “Sports leagues are all about fair play, diversity, and inclusion. Unfortunately, when our clients traveled with their team to the Gay Softball World Series, what they got instead was an atmosphere of hostility, discrimination, and suspicion.” [2]

A federal judge will determine whether or not the organization is public or private, and this will determine whether or not the plaintiffs have a legitimate claim against the league for their actions. NAGAAA argues that they were well within their rights, and that their policy limiting the number of straight men allowed to play in the Gay World Series is part of an effort to provide a safe environment in which gay and lesbian athletes can compete without the fear of discrimination. [5]

In determining that the players’ sexual orientation was enough to disqualify them and stripping the team of its title, it can be argued that the NAGAAA was actually engaging in discrimination. After all, the stated mission of the organization is to promote “amateur sports competition, particularly softball, for all persons regardless of age, sexual orientation or preference, with special emphasis on the participation of members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.” [6] The players’ presence on the team, regardless of their sexual orientation, did not violate the organization’s mission. If anything, the plaintiffs have proven their support of the organization and its aims by participating in the event.

While the validity of the claim in this case will revolve around the NAGAAA’s status as a public or private organization, an underlying issue is whether or not bisexuals should be classified as non gay individuals. If the NAGAAA wishes to limit the participation of bisexuals, this action is contrary to the organization’s stated mission of providing a forum for playing sports in which no one is discriminated against based on sexual orientation. The organization’s actions in this matter make it seem like sexuality is something that can and should be tested. It forces us to ask: Should athletes who wish to compete be forced to take some kind of test that proves whether or not they are gay enough to play? If so, what would this test look like, who would administer it, and how would the answers be judged? Even the mere suggestion of such a test seems absurd. Any such test would likely have a negative effect on the athletes involved in the association and would work to promote discrimination, not prevent it.

If a desire for less discrimination is the reason behind the association’s rule, it makes little sense that they would choose to act upon discrimination themselves. Acting in such a manner may only work to alienate bisexual players looking for a safe place to play sports. In the end, the NAGAAA may actually be harming those it aims to help.

Sources

1.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36692524 – MSNBC

2.  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/04/21/BAS51D26LD.DTL&tsp=1

– San Francisco Chronicle
3.  http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2010/04/bisexual-men-claim-bias-after-being-kicked-off-gay-softball-world-series-team/1 – USA Today

4.  http://kuow.org/program.php?id=20056 – KUOW.org

5. http://sdgln.com/health/2010/04/22/athletic-supporter-gay-rights-group-sues-gay-softball-league – San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

6. http://www.publicola.net/2010/04/22/afternoon-fizz-gay-softball-league-sued-for-discrimination/ – Publicola