According to a lawsuit filed last year, two former basketball players at the University of Pepperdine allege they were harassed and discriminated against due to their sexual orientation.
Title IX Blog reports that their case, which was initially dismissed, is particularly notable for how Title IX was used:
The court determined that the plaintiffs stated a cause of action under Title IX because they alleged that the coaches and others targeted them for mistreatment because of their perception that the plaintiffs’ dating and relationship choices did not conform to feminine stereotypes. (“If the women’s basketball staff in this case had a negative view of lesbians based on lesbians’ perceived failure to conform to the staff’s views of acceptable female behavior, actions taken on the basis of these negative biases would constitute gender stereotype discrimination.”). This part of the decision is groundbreaking in its recognition that same-sex sexual orientation is itself a form of gender nonconformity that is protected under Title IX, a conclusion that renders Title IX applicable to all claims of sexual orientation discrimination by gay and lesbian plaintiffs.
Haley Videckis and Layana White left the university in December of last year, claiming in a 24-page complaint that Coach Ryan Weisenberg wanted them to leave the team because they were dating.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
According to the complaint, “Coach Ryan believed that the plaintiffs were lesbians who were in a relationship and would cause the team to lose games.”
Videckis and White maintain that players on the team were routinely asked about their sexual orientation and sleeping arrangements.
After White transferred to Pepperdine from the University of Arizona, staffers allegedly neglected to promptly process her NCAA appeal to be eligible to participate in the 2014-15 season.
In a telephone interview, Videckis told The Los Angeles Times that “things have been covered up to an extreme extent and haven’t been dealt with properly.”
At the time, Pepperdine denied the lawsuit’s version of events in a statement sent to The Los Angeles Times:
“We take allegations of this kind very seriously. We conducted an immediate and thorough investigation and found no evidence to support these claims, and we look forward to demonstrating the truth of the matter in court. The university remains committed to a diverse and inclusive environment.”
The complaint claimed Weisenberg told players that “lesbianism is not tolerated on this team” and “it is the reason why teams lose.”
Pepperdine’s statement: “It is important to note that allegations are not facts.”
The complaint maintained Weisenberg blamed a Sparks defeat during a previous season on a flamed-out lesbian relationship, saying “That was the reason our team fell apart and lost.”
Such comments made Videckis and White worry that their scholarships would be yanked if their relationship became known.
White suffered “severe depression” because of the situation and attempted to end her life in September.
Alan Burton Newman, the attorney for the two women, said “it’s not a great university to be gay in.”
The complaint was filed under Title IX, a federal law that forbids schools from discrimination based on gender.
As the Court wrote, “Simply put, the line between sex discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination is ‘difficult to draw’ because that line does not exist, save as a lingering and faulty judicial construct.”
According to Title IX Blog:
The court also provided a second reason why the plaintiffs’ case is actionable under Title IX, separate from the gender nonconformity theory. According to the court, “If Plaintiffs had been males dating females, instead of females dating females, they would not have been subjected to the alleged different treatment. Plaintiffs have stated a straightforward claim of sex discrimination.” This second rationale supports the same groundbreaking conclusion that all sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under Title IX.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order disallowing Pepperdine staffers from ever asking students about their sexual orientation.