Best, worst of times

Posted on 22 Jun 2006 at 8:26pm
By David Webb Staff Writer

Kendell calls GLBT community’s progress “‘amazing’



Kate Kendell

GLBT society is simultaneously living through its best and worst times ever, according to Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Kendell visited Dallas last weekend to address the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the First Unitarian Church of Dallas. Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based group, also spoke at the church seminar about the gay community’s “hopes, needs and fears.”

At the chamber speech, Kendell said the progress made by GLBT activists during the past two decades amazes her. Never before have gay and lesbian people felt such comfort in being out and enjoying a sense of self, she said.
“The most powerful example is how your own life has changed,” Kendell said.

Kendell said pending litigation in New York, Washington, New Jersey and California could result in even more dramatic changes within the next two years. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is lead counsel in Woo v. California, a lawsuit seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state. Other GLBT groups are sponsoring suits in the three other states.

“It’s perfectly conceivable we could win the right to marry in four more states,” Kendell said.

As more same-sex couples get married in states where it is allowed, the unions will eventually influence more change in the country, Kendell said.

“They’re going to act like they are married because they are married,” she said.

A new wave of legal challenges would likely surface in other states where same-sex couples will begin demanding the same rights, Kendell said. The issue is expected to eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.

Kendell said another great challenge for GLBT society is achieving equality in the sports world. She asked the audience if anyone could name five openly gay or lesbian members of sports teams in the U.S She noted she could not note five openly lesbian women in sports.

That shows you the depth of the homophobia,” Kendell said.

Kendell’s group has legal action pending against Rene Portland, basketball coach of Penn State University’s women’s team. A former member of Portland’s team complained the coach discriminated against her because she perceived her to be a lesbian.

“For years she has terrified athletes on her team who were or she perceived to be lesbians,” Kendell said.

The university completed an internal investigation of Portland in April and fined Portland $10,000 and threatened to fire her if the coach violated anymore of the university’s anti-discrimination policies.

“We took the position that was not quite enough,” said Kendell, whose group filed an amended affirmative action complaint against Portland because of alleged defamatory statements she made against the plaintiff in a May 18 statement about the university’s findings.

Kendell said the Penn State case has generated widespread publicity and dialogue about the issue of homophobia in sports. Sports should be about an athlete’s ability to perform, she said.

“That’s all it should be about,” Kendell said.

Several members of the audience said they were impressed with Kendell’s speech.

Judy Sherman, a financial advisor with HFG Advisors, said Kendell was a powerful and credible speaker.

“She is really inspirational,” Sherman said.

Joe Bedsole, director of group sales for the Adolphus Hotel, said he was intrigued by Kendell’s effort to fight homophobia in sports.

“It is interesting about the world of supports being the final frontier,” Bedsole said. “I find that exciting.”

Kendell said the advances come with a price tag because they have made conservative groups more committed to their causes.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 23, 2006.

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