Bisexual softball players win settlement from gay SF team

No one wants their sexual orientation defined by someone else — and especially not by an amateur softball league in a semi public tribunal involving 25 strangers.

But that’s what happened to players from a local gay softball team following a 2008 national championship game in Seattle, where an opposing playoff team accused the San Francisco squad of stacking its roster with ringers — straight ringers, to be exact.

In 2010, three players — Stephen Apilado, Laron Charles and John Russ — filed a lawsuit against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance in a Seattle federal court claiming they had been discriminated against because they were bisexual, not gay. Lawyers in the case announced a settlement Monday in which the trio of ballplayers will receive an undisclosed amount of cash and the second-place trophy they were previously disqualified from claiming.

The athletic organization permits only two nongay players on each team. During the championship game between the San Francisco D2 and the Los Angeles Vipers, members of the recently vanquished Atlanta Mudcats questioned whether D2 was violating NAGAAA’s rules, and the complaint prompted a hearing into the true sexuality of the D2 players.

The verdict: Apilado, Charles and Russ were determined to be heterosexual.

“One of the guys was in tears, and they just could not believe that within a couple of questions, they had determined what their sexual orientation was,” said Vincent Fuqua, the commissioner of the local San Francisco Gay Softball League, who was present at the hearing in which players were asked in a room of about 25 people if they were attracted to men or women.

Fuqua said the questions naturally made the players uncomfortable, and elicited responses ranging from “no comment” to “I prefer both men and women.”

Helen Carroll, the sports project manager from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented the players in the lawsuit, said the settlement is a victory for the oft-overlooked rights of bisexuals.

Roger Leishman, an attorney for the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association, noted that the judge in the case threw out the original discrimination claim of the players on grounds that organizations have First Amendment rights to determine membership, leaving only privacy invasion and infliction of emotional distress claims against his client.

Leishman said the organization has clarified its rules to ensure the inclusion of bisexuals in league play.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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