Gay rights advocates have long worked towards forcing organizations such as Boy Scouts of America to allow gay members. BSA generally responds that they are a private organization and as such, they are allowed to limit their membership in any way they choose. The rub lies in whether BSA and similar organizations should receive any public funds, or be allowed to use public facilities in light of their apparent discrimination.
The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA), according to their website, is a “501(c)(3) international sports organization comprised of men and women dedicated to promoting amateur athletics for the GLBT community. NAGAAA was formed to encourage the participation of gay men and lesbians in organized softball competition.” Each year, they hold a Gay Softball World Series. Their Softball Code has a couple of definitions that we need to be aware of for this discussion.
1.15 Gay – means having a predominant sexual interest in a member or members of the same sex and includes both gay men and lesbians.
1.18 Heterosexual – means having a predominant sexual interest in a member or members of the opposite sex.
It further states
7.05 Heterosexual players – A maximum of two Heterosexual players are permitted on a GSWS roster.
There, my friends, lies the rub. In the 2008 GSWS, San Francisco-based D2 had their team membership challenged several times during the championship game, which they ultimately lost. Following the game, the 18 members of the team were each asked several intimate questions about their sexual preferences and identities, in front of some two dozen other people. D2 was ultimately stripped of their second-place win when NAGAAA decided that three members who identified as bisexual were straight, not gay.
The three members filed suit this week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleging 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.”
NAGAA has said that…yes, they’re “a private organization and as such, they are allowed to limit their membership in any way they choose.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? I’m assuming that the GSWS games were played on public sports fields, paid for with public funds. That would be…public facilities, right? So does NAGAAA think it’s okay for one private organization to limit their membership in any way they choose, even when using public facilities, but that it’s wrong for another private organization to do the same thing?
What’s more interesting is that the organization’s own web page includes the acronym “GLBT” which usually stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender. Maybe NAGAAA has a different definition. Yet the lawsuit claims that the three members who were voted straight were told “This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series.” That’s not very tolerant or inclusive, is it?
NAGAA seems to want to apply a series of double standards. The one time they had a chance to make a direct statement about inclusiveness to the public and their membership, they fluffed what should have been an easy fly ball. They claim to be inclusive of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered, but their practice is just the opposite. There is no reason to exclude bisexual or transgendered individuals from an activity when the group claims to be inclusive. What would NAGAAA do if confronted with someone claiming to be pansexual, or polysexual? What would they do with an intersexed person? Who’s to say what the “opposite gender” is for a intersexed person?
I find it miles beyond ironic that a gay group is using the same language to justify their actions as one of their opponents does. If gays are going to berate BSA for excluding them, they need to be just as vehement in voicing their disapproval of NAGAAA’s actions. Admirably, one such group has come forward. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is taking up the lawsuit on behalf of the three members of D2. Yes, a gay advocacy group is suing a gay group for discrimination. I’m trying hard not to laugh about the situation, because what the players went through was atrocious. But the ironies of the case make it difficult to keep a straight face. I wish NCLR and the three players success in their lawsuit. What happened to Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles and Jon Russ was wrong.