Friday, September 15, 2006

New Research on Homophobia in College Sports

New research by Drs. Heather Barber and Vikki Krane (the former of the University of New Hampshire, our beloved alma mater) [reported on here] documents the negative climate for gays and lesbians in college athletics -- in particular, for coaches, who are frequently the objects of "negative recruiting" by other coaches. Discrimination against coaches is a barometer of a hostile or oppressive climate more generally, including for student-athletes, the researchers say.

Depending on the court and the circumstances of the case, Title IX's protection may extend to discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation, on a theory that discriminating against women, but not men, who are attracted to women (or vice versa) is discrimination on the basis of gender. Not all courts accept this theory, however, including, most recently, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (in a decision about Title VII, employment law's version of Title IX). As Dr. Barber suggests in the article linked above, one way to fill this potential gap in coverage is for universities to enumerate protection for sexual orientiation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. State and local laws can also be a source of enumerated protection. As for Title IX's applicability in this area, we at Title IX Blog are keeping a close eye on a Title IX lawsuit against Rene Portland, the women's basketball coach at Penn State, who is charged with dismissing a player because of her perceived sexual orientation.

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