Strange, but apparently true. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
All Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles and Jon Russ wanted to do was to win the championship game at the Gay Softball World Series for their amateur San Francisco team.
Instead, they were marched one by one into a conference room at the tournament in suburban Seattle and asked about their “private sexual attractions and desires,” and their team was stripped of its second-place finish after the men were determined to be “non-gay,” they said in a lawsuit accusing a national gay sports organization of discrimination.
Although it’s not as extreme as hooking up the electrodes, asking a guy about his “private sexual attractions” to determine whether or not he’s gay seems a bit… invasive. Why not just ask how many times a day he moisturizes, or whether anything in his closet is purple?
Okay, let’s take a step back. We can ask the same question here as we can with respect to Supreme Court nominees: Does sexual orientation matter?
In this case, perhaps it does, since we’re talking about the Gay Softball World Series. “Gay Softball” should presumably be played by, you know, actual gays — not just guys who throw like girls.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, pits the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a San Francisco group backing the men, against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance [NAGAAA], which prides itself on barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.
At issue is whether the gay sports alliance violated Washington state’s public accommodations laws by enforcing a rule limiting to two the number of heterosexuals who can play on a team.
Hold on a sec. What exactly is the “National Center for Lesbian Rights” — and why are they representing a bunch of straight men?
The NCLR’s blog, Out for Justice, has some answers. It appears that the Center is (1) opposed to all discrimination based on sexual orientation, even if it’s intended to protect a gay sports league, and (2) “NAGAAA’s committee refused to entertain the idea that the players could be bisexual.”
(Bisexual? What’s that?)
So what’s the backstory on this lawsuit? Back to the Chronicle:
[The three plaintiffs] were members of D2, a team that was part of the San Francisco Gay Softball League. The squad made it to the championship game at the August 2008 tournament in Kent, Wash. But another team, the Atlanta Mudcats, which had lost to D2 in a semifinal game, complained that the San Francisco team had too many straights.
D2 ultimately lost the championship to a team from Los Angeles. Afterward, Apilado, Charles and Russ were called separately into a conference room in front of 25 people for a hearing to determine whether they were heterosexual or gay, the suit said. They were asked “very intrusive, sexual questions,” including what their sexual interests and preferences were, Suzanne Thomas, a Seattle attorney for the plaintiffs, said Wednesday.
It’s a softball team. Isn’t the league entitled to know whether they’re pitchers or catchers?
Charles, who was D2′s manager, asked whether he could say he was bisexual and was told, “This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series,” the suit said. According to Charles’ Facebook profile, he is married to a woman.
In a statement, Charles said, “When you play softball, you never expect for anyone to corner you and ask you personal questions about who you are and what you do.”
Actually, isn’t that a bit disingenuous? If you play softball in the Gay World Series, isn’t it a proper inquiry to ask whether you might be gay?
That’s certainly the position of the alliance:
Beth Allen, an attorney for the alliance, said Wednesday that the suit has no merit and that none of the plaintiffs suffered any discrimination. She said the San Francisco league’s suggestion to remove the heterosexual limit is problematic.
“Presumably, if that were to occur, teams could be comprised of heterosexual players only,” Allen said.
“This is not a bisexuals vs. gays issue,” she said. “It’s whether a private organization may say who may be a member of their organization. It’s an issue of freedom of association.”
In fairness to the players, though, the process by which their sexuality was questioned sounds a trifle Kafkaesque. From the complaint:
And because this case isn’t incendiary enough already, let’s toss a racial angle in there too:
(Can you blame them for tagging the white boy as gay?)
And now they’re being “blogged” about again, thanks to this lawsuit.
We can see both sides here. Check out the full complaint (PDF) for more.
What are your views on the merits of this case? Sound off in the comments, and take our poll:
Apilado v. NAGAAA [W.D. Wash. (PDF)]
Not gay enough – softball players sue [San Francisco Chronicle]
NCLR Files Suit Challenging Discriminatory Athletic Policy [Out for Justice / National Center for Lesbian Rights]