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Minn. Court of Appeals Rules Against Lesbian Golf Coach

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday May 8, 2012
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The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled against a former University of Minnesota lesbian golf coach and overturned a lower court ruling, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Kathryn Brenny sued the school for reducing her job duties after it was revealed she was a lesbian. Brenny filed a lawsuit against the college’s Golf Director John Harris and the Board of Regents after being removed from coaching golf and offered a sales job at a bank instead.

Brenny resigned just two months after being hired as the U of M’s women’s golf coach. She claims she "didn’t travel to any of the women’s away matches and was not allowed to discuss golf with players in her brief tenure," the Minnesota Daily points out. After Harris hired her, he allegedly discovered that she was a lesbian and prohibited her from performing a number of her job duties.

The suit claims that Harris, who resigned from his job last summer, would only allow Brenny to talk about "boys, life and school."

The complaint also says that Harris did not know Brenny was a lesbian when he offered her the position and the suit charges the university with discrimination, relation and sexual harassment based on sexual orientation. The lawsuit also charges Harris separately for interfering with Brenny’s contract.

"According to Ms. Brenny, from the moment Mr. Harris learned of her sexual orientation, he effectively and completely blocked her from performing her job, for which she was well-qualified, and unilaterally revoked nearly all of her contracted job duties as head coach of the women’s golf team," the suit reads. "Mr. Harris allegedly stated that he would not permit Ms. Brenny to travel with the team to tournaments because he ’discovered [that] she was a homosexual and did not want her on the road with the team.’"

The lawsuit goes on to say that Brenny met with school officials to discuss her job’s duties. The university’s Senior Associate Athletics Director Elizabeth Eull and Associate Athletic Director David Crum told her that her job description would be changing and the her new duties would mostly be housekeeping tasks. When Brenny complained to Athletics Director Joel Maturi the suit alleges that he said, "her choices were to either quit or comply with Harris’ demands."

Brenny decided to leave and transfer to a sales position at TCF Bank Stadium a few days after Maturi offered her a severance package. But Brenny revoked the separation agreement during the 15-day legal period.

Minnesota Public Radio notes that Brenny can still try to sue through a higher court but only if an appeals court agrees to hear the case.

LGBT college and high school coaches have made headlines many times in recent years. Like Brenny, some were allegedly fired based on their sexual orientation and others were inappropriately involved with students or the ones doing the discriminating.

In early 2011 Belmont University came under-fire for firing Lisa Howe -- a lesbian soccer coach.

After her departure, students and players protested and said that she was let go because she told school officials she was having a child with her partner, the Associated Press reported. The Christian university’s President Bob Fisher said that the school "does not consider sexual orientation in admissions or hiring decisions." But the college’s officials refused to answer any questions about the incident.

Mitch Stein, a former high school water polo coach from Covina, Calif., also claims he was fired for being gay.

The school denied the allegation but Stein’s firing came soon after scandalous photos were sent to the high school’s principal. The pictures, which were posted on social networking sites, showed the coach posing with a group of men in drag as well as jokingly posed with a corndog he was about to bite into.

After Stein was let go, he challenged the firing and asked if a straight man would lose his job if he posted a photo of himself with cheerleaders. He was told a cheerleader’s uniform is acceptable company in a photograph.

Sara L. Strahm, an Indiana basketball coach, was allegedly involved in a relationship with one of her female students for months. Strahm, 28, who was also a special ed teacher at Pike High School, was placed under arrest in December 2009 for having inappropriate contact with a 17-year-old female student.

"The child seduction charge is based on the fact that the coach is in a position of trust because she was involved in a sexual relationship with a student under the age of 18," the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Sgt. Paul Thompson told the media.

In an unusual case a Central Michigan University basketball coach was sued by a former player, who said that her heterosexuality was a factor in losing a scholarship, AP reported. Brooke Heika said that Sue Guevara told her she wore too much makeup and was not the coach’s "type." The lawsuit, filed in 2009, said that meant she wasn’t a lesbian.

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