Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Proposal Would Eliminate Sex Discrimination in Community Athletic Programs

A state legislator in Washington state has proposed a bill that would apply a Title IX-like nondiscrimination mandate to community athletic programs for children and adults. Since Title IX itself, which only applies to schools, does not cover community programs such as Little League, this new legislation would ensure that such programs provide equal access to equipment, supplies, facilities and the assignment of coaches and game officials regardless of the participants' sex.

Community recreation departments are concerned, however, that such a law could expose them to liability for discriminatory conduct of leagues that use community fields. But that is something community recreation department should already be concerned about. As government entities, they are obligated to comply with the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, which also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. For example, female athletes have successfully relied on the Equal Protection Clause to challenge Little Leagues and other community supported sports leagues that denied them an equal opportunity to try out. Since this proposed legislation would clarify, but not necessarily expand, the requirement of equality to treatment as well as access, I'm don't think it's terribly persuasive to argue that such a law imposes too much additional liability on community recreation departments.