ACLU Hails Law Banning Discrimination in Community Sports

News Release: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed into law the "Fair Play" bill (SB 5967) to prohibit sex discrimination in public community sports programs. The ACLU-WA worked for its passage as part of a partnership with the Women's Sports Foundation to promote equal treatment for women and girls in sports.

"Females who are forced to accept second-class treatment in sports are conditioned to accept second-class status in other areas as well. This bill will ensure that all athletes have a fair and equal chance to participate in community athletic programs," said ACLU-WA executive director Kathleen Taylor.

"The bill goes a long way in assuring gender equality for those in community recreation programs in Washington. Equal opportunity and access are critical components of developing confident and healthy girls who will grow to be the next generation of athletes, government, business, and community leaders," said Karen Durkin, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles was prime sponsor of the measure. Rep. Christine Rolfes sponsored a companion bill in the House.

"Girls who participate in sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem, lower levels of depression, and a better body image," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who has taught classes on Title IX and gender and equity at the University of Washington since 1985. "We must do everything we can to level the playing field and ensure fair play for females as well as for males."

Under both state law and the landmark federal Title IX law enacted in 1972, sex discrimination is banned in education programs. As a result, the number of girls participating in high school sports nationwide has increased tenfold, and the number of girls participating in college sports has increased fivefold.

But females in community recreation programs have not had the same protections against unequal treatment. Sex discrimination has persisted because of traditional favoritism toward male sports programs and outdated stereotypes about females' athletic interests and abilities. Too often, girls and women have been relegated to poorer facilities, less experienced officials, and less desirable practice and play times.

The "Fair Play" bill requires cities, towns, and counties to adopt and publicize policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in community recreation programs.

Supporting the bill are the ACLU of Washington, the Women's Sports Foundation, the Northwest Women's Law Center, the National Organization of Women of Washington, the Washington Association of Cities, and the Washington Recreation and Parks Association.

The ACLU of Washington and the Women's Sports Foundation are partnering in the "V is for Victory. So is IX." campaign to ensure that the historic Title IX law's promise of equality is fulfilled. The multifaceted campaign includes free educational workshops for public school coaches, athletes, and parents, viral videos, publications, and an interactive website.