Magazine Features in this issue:
Alleging discrimination against three bisexual softball players, the
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed a lawsuit against the
North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA), seeking more
than $225,000 in damages.
The suit argues the plaintiffs -- Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles
and Jon Russ, all players for San Francisco's D2 team -- faced
hostility and discrimination when their team qualified for the
championship game of the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle.
In response to another team's challenge, NAGAAA officials
allegedly questioned whether the three players were in violation of a
tournament rule capping heterosexual players at two per team.
The committee reportedly asked "intrusive questions" to
eventually determine the plaintiffs to be "non-gay," refusing to
acknowledge their claims of bisexuality and voiding D2's second-place
finish in the -tournament.
Helen Carroll, director of the NCLR Sports Project, argues the
NAGAAA's treatment of the men was illegal under Washington state law,
which prohibits against discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation in public accommodations. She feels the group's policy
further reinforces the stereotype that straight players are inherently
stronger than gay athletes.
Carroll noted that the Gay Games and other gay sports events
welcome everyone to compete, regardless of their sexual orientation.
"It's time for everyone to be fair and say out loud that bisexual
people are welcome to participate in the LGBT and sports communities,"
Carroll told Guide magazine.
In response to the suit, NAGAAA issued an open letter defending
its policy and denying any wrongdoing. The group claims the lawsuit
threatens its existence.
The open letter says the organization is "dedicated to providing
a safe environment for gays and lesbians." Because it lacks a
"pool of talented lawyers," it cannot compete against the "destructive
path" taken by the NCLR.
But Carroll contends that the NCLR has repeatedly attempted to
settle the case outside of courts.
"We can't discriminate against our very own," she said. "This
lawsuit is a test of the strength and character of our movement to
acknowledge discrimination and not to sweep it under the table."
|Author Profile: Joseph Erbentraut
Joseph Erbentraut is a Wisconsin-born freelance writer and editor
currently living in Chicago. His articles on politics, music and
culture have been featured in the Village Voice and other publications.
He also blogs at Chicagoist.
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