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NAGAAA settles suit, bisexual players vindicated

SEATTLE -- A settlement was finally reached in a case where three bisexual softball players took on the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) after their teams were disqualified from the 2008 Gay Softball World Series based on a rule in NAGAAA's bylaws.

The three plaintiffs were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and K&L Gates, LLP in Seattle.

NAGAAA boasts over 10,000 members on its website.

The men had been playing in their local NAGAAA-affiliated San Francisco-based league for years without issue. They had even played in the World Series in the past but never made it beyond fourth place.

However, in 2008, their team was up for the championship title and when their eligibility was challenged based on the NAGAAA rule limiting the number of non-gay players on a World Series team to two.

During the inquiry, players were questioned about their private lives in front of a roomful of people in order to distinguish their eligibility. One such question forced them to answer whether they were "predominately" interested in women or men.

One player who had admitted his attraction to both sexes was equal, was told, "this is not a bisexual world series, it is a gay world series." The NAGAAA protest committee then voted the three as heterosexual and disqualified their team, immediately crowning the other team as champions by default.

In findings released today, NAGAAA is said to have recognized that disqualifying the players from the 2008 tournament "was not consistent with NAGAAA's intention of being inclusive of bisexual players." The disqualified team will be given a second place trophy and all records will be amended to show their participation in the Series.

NAGAAA also "expressed regret at the impact the 2008 protest hearing had on the players and their team."

The rules have since been changed to be fully inclusive of all bisexual and transgender players, allowing unlimited players to participate.

"Every LGBT organization should strive to be a safe and affirming space for everyone, including bisexual and transgender people, people of color, and those who are questioning their sexual orientation," said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. "NAGAAA’s decision to amend its rules is a welcome step in that direction.”

The protest also shined a light on additional challenges faced members of the LGBT community who are also people of color. Of the five players initially singled out, only two of the five were white and after the inquiry, they were believed to be gay and excluded from the protest. The three others were believed by the protest committee to be predominately heterosexual.

“Hopefully NAGAAA’s rule changes will help make the league more welcoming of LGBT people of color," said Russell K. Robinson, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. "A number of studies have shown that men of color are more likely to identify as bisexual as opposed to gay.  By explicitly including all bisexual people in its revised definitions, NAGAAA’s rule changes reduce the likelihood that men of color will disproportionately face exclusion from its tournaments.”

About NCLR

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. You can learn more at their website.