"Not gay enough." That was the verdict of a national gay sports association after it questioned the same-sex spooning credentials of three Bay Area softball players two summers ago, and then stripped their team of its second-place finish in the Seattle-hosted Gay Softball World Series. Today, the three admitted "non-gay" men, championed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, have sued the gay sports club in federal court, accusing it of breaking Washington state's anti-discrimination laws by limiting teams to just two, dare I say, token, straights.
Now I have to admit this case has a certain you've-got-to-be-kidding appeal: lesbian lawyers sue gay male sports league on behalf of put-upon straight men who claimed to be bisexual when confronted by their do-ask gay interrogators. But the case also raises serious questions about the acceptable reach of anti-discrimination laws into the inner huddles of private clubs.
After all, if the Boy Scouts have a constitutional free association right to exclude gay members, then a gay sports club certainly has a comparable right to limit the straightness of its boys of summer, even to the chagrin of their admiring gay fans. In fact, some of those limits may still be necessary in many parts of the country to provide an arena for gay and lesbian athletes to play ball in an environment where they don't have to face anti-gay discrimination.
Still, there's at least a whiff of hypocrisy in the intrusive questioning and gay-to-play rules of an organization that prides itself on principles of inclusiveness. If sexual orientation discrimination is harmful in the public sphere -- and it most certainly is -- then it is no less damaging in the private realm. The long pitching arm of the law may well reach private clubs that enjoy public financial support or wield economic influence in the public arena or job market.
Whether gay softball leagues have reached such lofty heights remains to be seen. Until then, non-gay players and their gay allies may just have to find a league of their own.