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  • James Yamasaki

(In short: Allegations of non-gay people from San Francisco sneaking onto a team at the 2008 Gay Softball World Series, followed by the convening of an on-field tribunal to examine the sexual preferences of said San Franciscans, followed by complaints of racism and more from said San Franciscans—and then, finally, a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, on behalf of said San Franciscans, in Seattle, with Judge John C. Coughenour presiding.)

Yesterday, Judge Coughenour issued an order on pre-trial motions in the case, finding that lawyers for the plaintiffs—the three men from San Francisco whose sexualities were challenged at the 2008 tribunal—had "failed to argue that there is a compelling state interest in allowing heterosexuals to play gay softball."

Citing two high profile U.S. Supreme Court decisions—on the right of the Boy Scouts of America to discriminate against gay people and the right of Westboro Baptist Church to picket military funerals—Judge Coughenour wrote that the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, which puts on the Gay Softball World Series, has a First Amendment right as an "expressive association" to make rules about who can, and cannot, play in its games.

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From Judge Coughenour's order:

The Commissioner of NAGAAA submitted a declaration explaining that the desire for exclusivity was born of the fact that many members of the LGBT community come from backgrounds where team sports have been environments of ridicule and humiliation. NAGAAA’s efforts to promote anathletic, competitive, sportsmanlike gay identity, with a unique set of values, in response to a particular need, are protected by the First Amendment. Forced inclusion of straight athletes would distract from and diminish those efforts.

Separately, Judge Coughenour declined to grant the San Francisco players' request for nationwide injunction against NAGAAA's rule that only two straight athletes per team are allowed at the Gay Softball World Series. But, he agreed with the San Francisco players that the Seattle Gay Softball World Series was a "public accommodation" covered by Washington anti-discrimination laws, and said a trial on how the San Francisco players were treated at the 2008 tribunal could move forward.

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