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.
The three plaintiffs — Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles and Jon Russ — played on a team called D2 that qualified for the 2008 Gay Softball World Series, which is organized by the alliance.
The alliance's rules say that each World Series team can have no more than two heterosexual players. According to the lawsuit, a competing team accused D2 of violating that rule.
Each of the three plaintiffs was called into a conference room in front of more than 25 people, and was asked "personal and intrusive questions" about his sexual attractions and desires, purportedly to determine if the player was heterosexual or gay, the lawsuit alleges. The alliance has no category or definition for bisexual or transgender people in its rules, the plaintiff's attorney said.
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 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 World Series for a year, according to the suit.
The men are asking for $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 World Series finish.
"This case is just about treating everybody in the community equally ... and not interrogating folks about whether they're gay enough to play," said Melanie Rowen, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing the three men.
The men also are asking the court to toss out the alliance's rule limiting the number of straight players on each team.
Hypothetically, that could mean a team of all-straight people could form, but "it would be extremely unlikely for that to happen," Rowen said.
The alliance was formed in 1977 and now includes more than 680 teams in 37 leagues across the U.S.