On Tuesday, it was announced that the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Rowdies joined with the Human Rights Campaign and other interested parties to sign an amicus brief, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, in support of protection for the LGBTQ+ community.
This marks the second time the organization has signed an amicus brief in support of this cause over the last four years.
What is an amicus brief?
The goal of an amicus brief is to inform the court of relevant information that may have been overlooked or not provided in previous rulings. They are most commonly used in appeals cases, especially when the case involves something related to public interest.
This particular brief refers to three cases that have been previously seen by the Supreme Court, which are related to the idea that the existing Civil Rights Act — which bars discrimination in the workplace, school, housing, healthcare, etc., on the basis of race, religion and/or sex — should also include discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Jay Brown, the Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training for the HRC Foundation, referred to this new brief as a “critical moment” in supporting equality:
“At this critical moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality, these leading businesses are sending a clear message to the Supreme Court that LGBTQ people should, like their fellow Americans, continue to be protected from discrimination.”
Stick to sports!
No. Let’s talk about why this decision matters, and why the Rays and Rowdies should be an example of the rule rather than the exception.
LGBTQ+ people exist. They are citizens. They should have the same rights available to them as anyone else. Any person should not worry that a hospital will not provide her medical assistance when she needs it based on orientation, or be denied housing if he is otherwise completely suited for the rental or purchase due to a “lifestyle.”
What the Rays and Rowdies — and San Francisco Giants — are doing by joining this brief is openly saying that they as business owners welcome everyone. In fact, they cite the business angle, saying “Signing the brief was not only the right thing to do, but is also best for our business.” They welcome anyone to work within their businesses. They welcome everyone to patronize their business.
It may not seem like much, but rather than just displaying a rainbow-colored emblem for the month of June, the Rowdies and Rays are standing up for what they believe in, and what they believe benefits their community, and they are signing on the legal line.
Why do the Rays care?
The Rays were approached by a group called Athlete Ally, which aims to “end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQ equality.”
The Rays didn’t think twice about signing on to the 2019 amicus brief. In fact, this is just the most recent in a long line of steps the Rays have taken to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community feels welcome and safe, not just at Rays games, but everywhere.
As noted above, this isn’t even their first time signing a brief like this. In 2015 they signed an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage. Later that same year, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal across America.
In 2016 following the tragic events of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the team sold $5 tickets to their Pride night with all proceeds going to the Pulse Victims Fund, and gave fans “We Are Orlando” shirts.
Over 40,000 fans turned out that night, the highest turnout since 2006. Equality Florida recognized the club for the event by giving the Rays their Equality Means Business award.
Where some teams still struggle to host a single Pride night at their stadiums every year, the Rays have been doing it for 14 years. They also participated in Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign by filming their own video in support of ending anti-gay bullying.
From a non-business view, the Rays just believe some issues are worth tackling, no matter what, and civil rights is an issue that they believe every business should be willing to tackle.
From a purely business point of view, the Rays and Rowdies are saying they are willing to stand in defense of their employees and customers against discrimination.
That’s huge. That’s a major company saying they believe that the Supreme Court needs to do better when it comes to protecting the rights of those who have been endangered, fired, and killed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The decision, which was a no-brainer for the team, came down to one simple fact according to Brian Auld, the Rays President, and Vice Chair of the Rowdies: “It’s the right thing to do.”
Auld also believes that other teams should join in. “We encourage other sports teams and organizations to support this protection for fans, employees and their families.”
But the bottom line for the team is not acknowledgement or reward. It’s about creating a workplace that any of their LGBTQ+ colleagues and employees can feel a little prouder of today.
Okay, why should I care?
Because civil rights impact people in our lives. They impact our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends.
The Rays and Rowdies decision to sign the amicus brief isn’t about denying the rights of any of their non-LGBTQ+ fans or employees. It’s merely about establishing fair rights for all of their fans and employees.
Whatever the future of the Rays in Tampa Bay, their fans can feel good knowing that this is a team that cares about each and every person that sets foot in their stadium, watches from home, or even cheers for a visiting team.
They are a team that wants the best for everyone, and so should you.