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Lesbian law firm sues gay men’s softball league*

I realize this title sounds likes the punch line from a bad joke.  I mean, you know, I thought it was the lesbians who played softball while the gay men went to the Oscars.  On Tuesday:

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) clients and the law firm of K&L Gates LLP filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington challenging the discriminatory practices of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA). The lawsuit alleges that NAGAAA violated Washington’s laws governing discrimination in public accommodations, and state consumer protections by implementing and enforcing a “two heterosexuals per team” cap during the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle, and also violated the plaintiff softball players’ rights by subjecting them to a series of invasive questions about their sexual orientation and private lives in front of more than 25 people, most of them strangers.

Now, first of all, I think this is a stupid rule.  But, the NAGAAA is a private organization.  And a private organization has should have the right to set its own criteria for membership.  If it had wanted to allow only gay men to play on its teams, then the state should not prevent it from doing so.

But, I also agree with NCLR Staff Attorney Melanie Rowen who called the “inquisition” into players’ private lives, “outrageous.”  It is particularly disgusting that a gay organization would not just countenance, but also conduct a public interrogation into individuals’ private lives.

(To be sure, given that this was a private organization questioning the players, any individual player could have walked out at any time.  I wonder if any did.)

That said, as a matter of Washington State law, it appears NCLR is on the money.  And I commend them for taking the case as a matter or principle.  It shows they truly support non-discrimination laws, even when they limit the freedom of gay organizations.  They have more integrity than many in our society.

(Still, I’m wondering why they filed this in a federal court.*  I’ll inquire with an acquaintance who once worked at NCLR.)

With this lawsuit, we truly see how non-discrimination legislation threatens our freedom of association.  If the Washington State law prevents a gay organization from limiting the number of straight players on its team, they could also prevent a gay organization — or lesbian association — from barring straight people.


*Credit where it’s due.  My friend Rick Sincere came up with the title.  Make sure to check out his great blog!

UPDATE:  I received this from Melanie Rowen, the lead attorney on the case:

In fact, it is common for federal courts to enforce state laws in cases where the parties are from states other than the state where the suit is filed. Our clients are in California and NAGAAA is also based outside of Washington, but the 2008 World Series took place in Seattle, so we filed in federal court there.



  1. See on facebook: “This is so gay.”


    Comment by Morgan — April 23, 2010 @ 1:24 am - April 23, 2010

  2. Remember once upon a time in America when we still had the freedom of association?

    Comment by American Elephant — April 23, 2010 @ 1:53 am - April 23, 2010

  3. I found it funny, myself.

    I’d made a comment years ago about the D/s community, that sometimes I think the witchhunts did us some good. Now that it’s possible to be kinky and not a pariah, the groups seem to be turning on each other. Spankers not liking crossdressers, leather daddy’s not liking straight couples etc. Of course there are exceptions, but the openness lets snobbery flair.

    Looks like it’s happening here, ‘more gay than you’ or ‘not gay enough’

    Yes, AE, they should be able to include who they want, but it does read as sour grapes by someone in the organization. “Damn, they beat us! Quick, find out if they’re gay enough!”

    I think ostracisation and ridicule is the correct sunlight, not a lawsuit.

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 23, 2010 @ 6:44 am - April 23, 2010

  4. Remember the “No Homers tree house club on the Stone Cutters episode of The Simpsons? I always think about that in these freedom of association stories.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — April 23, 2010 @ 8:11 am - April 23, 2010

  5. There’s another issue. Two players, one white, one black. Both gave identical answers to the inquisition.

    The AA one was deemed “not gay enough”, the WASP was.

    Comment by Zoe Brain — April 23, 2010 @ 8:47 am - April 23, 2010

  6. Now, first of all, I think this is a stupid rule. But, the NAGAAA is a private organization.

    Yes to both points. The whole thing is a nightmare product of the gay-ghetto approach to life.

    I fault the self-hating, heterosexist gay ball players for homophobically wanting to emulate straight ball players to begin with. (kidding)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 23, 2010 @ 10:04 am - April 23, 2010

  7. It’s a freakin gay softball league for freaks sake.

    Don’t they have the Gay Games olympics every year?

    Comment by Mitchell — April 23, 2010 @ 7:58 pm - April 23, 2010

  8. They are having a ball on the Hannity forum with this one (no pun intended).

    Comment by longviewcyclist — April 24, 2010 @ 2:31 am - April 24, 2010

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