Three bisexual men have filed a federal lawsuit against a national gay-sports organization, claiming they were unfairly deemed not gay enough to play for a gay softball team during the Gay Softball World Series.
Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles and Jon Russ contend the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance discriminated against them during the Gay Softball World Series held in Seattle in August 2008.
The lawsuit, first reported by The Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. It accuses the alliance of violating Washington state laws barring discrimination.
According to the lawsuit, the three California men were on a softball team called D2 that advanced to the championship game in Seattle. During the game, play was stopped several times after the team that lost to them in the semifinals protested that D2 was in violation of a league rule permitting no more than "two heterosexual players" on a team.
Following the championship game, which D2 lost, Apilado, Charles and Russ were each separately called into a conference room in front of more than 25 people for a "hearing" by the Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance to determine whether each was "heterosexual" or "gay," the lawsuit says.
The men say they were forced to answer "highly personal and intrusive questions" about their sexual interests and private life, including whether they were "predominantly attracted to men" or "predominantly attracted to women."
At one point during the proceedings, the lawsuit alleges, one of the plaintiffs was told: "This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series."
The alliance has no category or definition for bisexual or transgender people in its rules, the plaintiff's attorney said.
'Gay enough to play'
The alliance ruled the three men were "nongay," stripped D2 of its second-place finish and recommended that the three players be suspended from participating in the Gay Softball World Series for a year, according to the lawsuit.
Team D2 disbanded after the ruling and Russ and Apilado did not participate in the 2009 Gay Softball World Series, the lawsuit says.
The men are seeking $75,000 each for emotional distress. They're also seeking to invalidate the alliance's findings on the men's sexual orientations and to reinstate D2's second-place finish.
"This case is just about treating everybody in the community equally ... and not interrogating folks about whether they're gay enough to play," Melanie Rowen, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing the three men, told The Seattle Times.
Beth Allen, the alliance's attorney, told the Times the three plaintiffs "were not discriminated against in any unlawful manner."
In any case, Allen told the newspaper, the alliance is a private organization and, as such, can determine its membership based on its goals.
The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance was formed in 1977 and now includes more than 680 teams in 37 leagues across the U.S. and Canada, according to its website.