This is probably the funniest story I’ve read all week. We’re covering it here because it’s the sort of thing other left blogs studiously avoid, and because it illustrates something about the tangles you can get into with liberal rights theory:
Three bisexual men are suing a national gay-athletic organization, saying they were discriminated against during the Gay Softball World Series held in the Seattle area two years ago.
The three Bay Area men say the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance in essence deemed them not gay enough to participate in the series.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle accuses the alliance of violating Washington state laws barring discrimination. The alliance organizes the annual Gay Softball World Series.
Beth Allen, the alliance’s attorney, said the lawsuit is unwarranted and that the three plaintiffs “were not discriminated against in any unlawful manner.”
In any case, Allen said, the alliance is a private organization and, as such, can determine its membership based on its goals.
Whether the alliance is public or private will likely have to be determined in court, since the plaintiffs characterize the alliance as a “public accommodation” that’s open to the public and uses public softball fields.
You can get the details here, but here’s the condensed version. These three dudes join a gay softball team called D2. The team enters a national gay softball championship in Seattle. It performs well, coming second. At this point, one of the teams it beat cries foul. The rules of the contest say a team can only have a maximum of two straight players, and D2 is accused of playing ringers.
So the three dudes are hauled into a tastefully appointed star chamber, and in front of an audience of over 25 other men are questioned in excruciating detail about their sexual preferences, before the star chamber rules that the three dudes are not gay enough and disqualifies their team.
This being America, they then sue on the basis of a Washington state law that says you can’t discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, and are claiming $75,000 for emotional distress. In a wonderful twist, they’re having legal representation provided by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, although I’m pretty sure the three dudes aren’t lesbian.
What this will come down to, legally, is whether the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance is a public body – its events are open to the public and it uses public sports facilities – and therefore banned from discriminating. NAGAAA attorneys would have it that NAGAAA is a voluntary association and therefore is entitled to select its membership based on sexual orientation.
This may all sound like wacky American litigation, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that New Labour’s Sexual Orientation Regulations have guaranteed will happen in Britain. I eagerly look forward to Mr Ben Summerskill explaining to a court that of course discrimination is fine, as long as it’s the right sort of people doing the discriminating…