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Three bisexual men who were disqualified from the 2008 Gay Softball World Series for not being gay enough are citing a violation of anti-discrimination laws in a lawsuit they’ve filed against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association.
The men, members of a San Francisco softball team, say they were questioned in front of a room full of strangers about their sexual preferences after a protest was lodged alleging their team had violated a rule that limited to two the number of heterosexuals on any team.
The three men, who are bisexual, say the questioning was intrusive and allege in the lawsuit that the event’s sponsor and its rule violate state anti-discrimination laws.
However, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour found that the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association, which sponsors the yearly event, can keep its rule. The First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression and association allow organizations like the softball association to limit membership to individuals with like-minded beliefs in order to promote a broader agenda — in this case, ensuring gay athletes have a safe and accepting community in which to play, he ruled.
In my opinion, the judge’s ruling that the Gay Softball World Series is entitled to have whomever they want play in their league is correct. This is merely the other side of the coin of the cases involving the Irish parade in Boston and the Boy Scouts. In these cases, gays sued to be included in the parade and as scoutmasters in the Boy Scouts. The Supreme Court, however, found that the right of association and of speech on the part of the groups allowed them to choose to include or exclude members as they wished. If the government was doing the excluding, that would be a different matter. But if private groups want to discriminate, for good or ill, that is up to them — we have a constitutional right, the Court says, to associate with whom we want.
The Court’s ruling makes eminent sense to me. We enter into private groups because of some shared interest or affinity. If groups were forced by the state to admit everyone, they would lose their essential character and there would be little point to forming them. Gilbert & Sullivan (I believe) put it best: “if everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.”