Backboard Rubyfruit Jungle
How about a little lesbian news?
Penn State will review accusations of discrimination by a gay rights advocacy group against women’s basketball coach Rene Portland.
“The allegations will be investigated according to university policy and practices,” school president Graham Spanier said in an e-mail Wednesday. “Penn State has a nondiscrimination policy that is fundamental to the principles of our university.”
Spanier said he received a letter of complaint from the National Center for Lesbian Rights regarding the case of Jennifer Harris, who transferred from Penn State last spring after two years on the team.
According to the center, Portland had repeatedly questioned Harris about her sexual orientation, threatened to kick her off the team if she was a lesbian, and told other players not to associate with players who Portland believed was gay.
Spanier’s office said the president had not seen copies of the complaints until after information was released to the media Tuesday. He wrote in his e-mail that university attorneys will follow up with the center to learn more.
Portland was not available for comment on Wednesday, the athletic department said.
Portland is entering her 26th season as Penn State coach and has a 578-204 record. She has led the school to five Big Ten championships and made an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2000.
Harris transferred to James Madison.
Her attorney at the center, Karen Doering, said Wednesday that while Harris is not a lesbian, “it’s not a matter of whether she is or is not. Rene Portland believed that Jen is a lesbian, and Jen is not the first to be caught up in a net of discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation.”
Doering has also accused Portland of using anti-gay sentiments while recruiting as a way to encourage or discourage players from attending Penn State.
Harris, in a phone interview on Wednesday, recounted conversations she said she had with Portland while being recruited in high school and while at Penn State.
Midway through her freshman year in college, Harris said Portland allegedly pulled her and another player aside after rumors surfaced that the teammates were dating.
“I kind of laughed. I was so stunned. I didn’t know why she was asking and what it had to do with basketball,” Harris said Wednesday. “I didn’t know what the problem was.”
Harris said her main goal now is for Penn State “to do something to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone again.”
Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said the accusations were a surprise because Harris had never raised the issue while at Penn State.
One wonders why Bill Mahon is shocked that Rene Portland has a problem with lesbians when it took me all of 30 seconds to find this:
In 1991, Rene Portland, Penn State’s women’s basketball coach, triggered a controversy when it was reported that at the beginning of each season, she warned her squad that she wouldn’t tolerate drinking, drugs or lesbians. After a series of protests and demonstrations at the university against Portland, school officials expanded its anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.
In a recent interview, Portland didn’t sound as if she has changed her mind about not wanting lesbians on her team.
“I’m going to be honest with you: Penn State has rules and to stay the basketball coach. I follow those rules,” said Portland, in her 23th season as coach of the Lady Lions.
So, much like a big-time Division One football program, the school has obviously taken to looking the other way because Portland has a winning record.
Meanwhile in San Diego:
A state appeals court in San Diego yesterday weighed competing claims of religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws during oral arguments in a key case involving a lesbian and two North County fertility doctors who refused to artificially inseminate her.
After an hour of debate, it was difficult to determine how the panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal might decide the outcome of the closely watched case.
The justices’ questions focused on several areas, such as the interplay between the state’s law banning discrimination in public places and other laws that allow medical professionals to refuse to perform certain procedures based on their religious beliefs.
The case involves a lawsuit filed in 2001 by Guadalupe Benitez, an Oceanside woman who sued two doctors and a medical clinic in Vista over her fertility treatments.
She contended that the doctors, Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton of North Coast Women’s Care in Vista, would not perform a certain kind of artificial insemination because their religious beliefs prohibited them from inseminating a lesbian couple.
Lawyers for the doctors say Brody and Fenton told Benitez and her partner that other physicians at the clinic would perform the procedure.
The justices are weighing whether such an “accommodation” is a permissible solution to a conflict between a physician’s religious convictions and the ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. Attorneys for Benitez say it is not.
At the appeals court yesterday, Carlo Coppo, the lawyer for the doctors, said Prager’s decision was premature. He said the doctors should have the right to present their case to a jury, which could then decide if their religious beliefs were sincere or a ruse to discriminate.
The law allows doctors in some instances to refuse treatment based on religious grounds, such as performing abortions or doing blood transfusions. Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer for Benitez, said that exemption does not apply in this case because the doctors singled out Benitez because of her sexual orientation.
“They need to make their judgments based on medical criteria,” she argued, “and not in a discriminatory manner. They can’t put their beliefs into action so that people are treated differently.”
There are a number of disputes between the two sides about what happened and what Benitez was told. Coppo said the doctors do not perform the procedure on any unmarried couple â€“ gay or straight â€“ and thus are not discriminating.
Benitez and her lawyers dispute that and say the reason was because she is a lesbian. Pizer pointed to a declaration filed early in the case, in which Brody said it was against her beliefs to perform the insemination procedure “for a gay couple.”