The staff at Qwest Field had every clue that gay couples would be attending the WaMu Theater on July 1. After all, that night's concert was the Seattle stop on the True Colors tour. It starred Rosie O'Donnell and Cyndi Lauper, the stage was decorated with a rainbow and a pink triangle, and the event was billed as a fundraiser for organizations to "raise awareness about the discrimination the GLBT community still faces." But while the B-52s played a slow song, two lesbians who were sitting in the third row say a security guard approached them, shined his flashlight in their faces, and then lowered the beam onto their joined hands. He then gestured with his finger across his throat to "cut it out" and told them to "stop it," the women say.
"We didn't know what to do. He [was] a very large man. I'm not a very big woman," says Laura, 33, who shares a house in Ballard with her domestic partner, Cai, 37. "It seems like if I had made a scene, he would have ejected us." Both women asked to be identified only by their first names while they register a formal complaint with Qwest Field management.
The security guard's reprimand is the second time a gay couple has been chided for showing affection at Seattle's south- downtown sports stadiums. In May, a fan at Safeco Field complained to a security guard about two lesbians kissing; the guard threatened to eject the couple from the Mariners game unless they stopped. But at Qwest, they weren't even kissing. "At a True Colors event you should be able to hold hands," Laura says.
"We were very disappointed to hear someone had this kind of experience," says Qwest Field spokeswoman Suzanne Lavender. She says that under Qwest's fan "code of conduct," holding hands is "completely acceptable behavior for a Seahawks game, an auto show, or an Iggy Pop concert." She says that Qwest is now considering adding sensitivity trainings for security guards and role-plays involving same-sex couples. "We will take actions to make sure this doesn't happen again," she says.
Josh Friedes, spokesman for LGBT advocacy group Equal Rights Washington, says that the recent events in Qwest and Safeco Field don't necessarily represent a growing trend. "We're living our lives openly and honestly, and not living as scared as we used to be," he says of same-sex couples. "It's good sign that people are not willing to take it anymore."
But Friedes isn't convinced that adding sensitivity training will stop discrimination. He says tolerance of same-sex couples must "pervade the culture" of the sports venues' management and staff.
In the meantime, Qwest's commitment to resolving this issue seems lax.
Although Qwest representatives told the couple that management would investigate and call them back the next day, Laura says that, a week later, she still hadn't heard from them, so Cai contacted Qwest again. The couple has since scheduled a meeting with Qwest for Wednesday, July 16. Laura says she and Cai want Qwest to publicly apologize and pledge to increase sensitivity training for stadium staff. They are hoping for the best from the meeting, but, she says, "If they try to spin it and try to pacify us, we will take it further." To that end, the couple has hired a lawyer.
But for now, Seattle has only one guaranteed lesbian-friendly sports venue: KeyArena, where Seattle Storm games routinely transform the stands into veritable homosexual homecomings. But the final frontier is the two remaining stadiums—and not just for lesbian-adored sports teams, but for football games and rock concerts.