Anti-gay coach protesters put ball in their court

By |2017-10-31T14:05:14-04:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

Women’s basketball and gay politics took to center court last weekend in Ann Arbor.
As University of Michigan squared off against Penn State University at Crisler Arena, about 300 fans wore lavender shirts protesting PSU coach Rene Portland’s anti-lesbian views.
For the last 15 years, Portland’s distaste for lesbians hasn’t been a secret.
Portland used to have a “no drinking, no drugs, no lesbians” policy, according to several former players. In 1991, when Penn State revised its nondiscrimination policy, Portland openly expressed her anti-gay views to the team.
No PSU players came forward until 2006, when former teammate Jennifer Harris accused Portland of dismissing her from the team because of her perceived sexual orientation. She filed a federal lawsuit against PSU and Portland. A PSU internal review found Portland created a “hostile, intimidating, and offensive environment” based in Harris’ perceived sexual orientation, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Unfortunately, Portland kept her job and was reprimanded with a fine and mandatory diversity classes.
While Penn State may have handed this woman a virtual slap on the hand, fans have not let her get away with her overt discrimination. Sunday’s show of “lavender menace” protesters was strong and vocal, well over a year after the silent protests began nationwide.
Not only did this group – most of whom aren’t basketball fans – get their message across to Portland, but also they informed questioning attendees who weren’t aware of Portland’s discriminatory practices. The protesters’ – some gay, some straight – willingness to stand up as one for gay rights served as a reminder to these female players that their sexual orientation will be supported despite Portland’s beliefs. Now, if only Penn State would step up to the plate with more than a minimal fine (considering Portland’s salary reported triple digit salary) when Portland lashes out against any lesbians, these women wouldn’t have to shield their sexuality.
The activists sent that message to PSU, Portland and others far and wide as they came out in full-force and pledged to stand up for these women. But, furthermore, for each and every gay or lesbian person alive.
Sunday’s protest served as a triumphant moment for gay folks, especially considering the massive turnout. It showed that there are people in the state of Michigan (and nationwide) who will not stand for discrimination. The best part: Some of these people aren’t even gay. They’re just on our side. Now that, that’s a victory.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.