A document distributed by the Washington Nationals has gay and lesbian activists up in arms.
The memo [PDF] outlines the Nats’ “Vendor Procurement Program,” which, the document says, “is a significant business, public relations, and legal issue for the Nationals.” It goes on to outline a five-point affirmative-action policy, the last point of which is a promise that the team not “discriminate against any employee or applicant…because of race, color, ethnic status, religion, sex, age, national origin, disabled veteran status, Vietnam era veteran status, or disability.”
Conspicuously absent: any mention of sexual orientation.
Legally speaking, the omission doesn’t mean a whole lot, considering that anti-gay discrimination is prohibited under the D.C. Human Rights Act, which covers all of the criteria in the Nats’ policy, plus sexual orientation, marital status, personal appearance, familial status, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, and place of residence or business. And the employment policy for the team itself, as listed on its Web site, includes sexual orientation as a protected class.
But relations between the baseball team and gay activists are particularly touchy considering that the Nationals’ stadium required the destruction of the city’s largest—-well, only—-gay entertainment district, meaning even perceived or inadvertent slights are grounds for mistrust and bad feelings.
Soon after receiving the document in a September meeting, longtime activist Philip Pannell dispatched an e-mail to Gregory McCarthy, the Nationals top local-affairs liaison, explaining his concerns and asking for a meeting.
“It is no secret that Major League Baseball has a history of being one of the most homophobic enterprises in our country and the omission of sexual orientation in its printed anti-discrimination policy may not be a simple omission…,” Pannell wrote. “Having a Gay Day once a year is not enough.
McCarthy, a former aide to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, wrote back, saying he’d asked the team’s general counsel to “ensure that our policies reflect local law (and local sensibilities)” and asked for more time to formulate a response.
Pannell followed up with a note last week, and when he did not hear a response from McCarthy, he took his concerns to the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which had a meeting Monday.
Rick Rosendall, VP of political affairs for the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, says his group has also gotten involved.
Rosendall says this is “an opportunity for the Nats to show their respect for, and connection with, the D.C. community of which they are a part.” Adding sexual orientation and other categories covered by the Human Rights Act to the Nats’ policy, he says, “would be an affirmative way to show their commitment to and embrace of the District’s policy.”
McCarthy referred questions on the matter to Nationals spokesperson Chartese Burnett, who says that Nationals President Stan Kasten had called Stein Club leaders today to ease their concerns. “They did have a conversation, and it was a positive one,” she says.
And after the issue was brought up at the club’s Monday meeting, At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown, who was present, contacted the Nationals on the club’s behalf.
“They’re working together to clarify the policy,” says Brown spokesperson Mike Price.