Crime & Justice

Ruling lets Pepperdine athletes proceed with discrimination lawsuit

In this file photo from 2009, Pepperdine University plays the University of San Francisco. A ruling on Dec. 15, 2015 has allowed two former Pepperdine University women's basketball players to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit against the school.
In this file photo from 2009, Pepperdine University plays the University of San Francisco. A ruling on Dec. 15, 2015 has allowed two former Pepperdine University women's basketball players to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit against the school.
San Francisco Foghorn via Flickr

A ruling by a federal judge has allowed two former Pepperdine University basketball players to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit against the school.

In the Dec. 15 ruling, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson said that the claims of Haley Videckis and Layan White fall under the scope of Title IX, a federal ban on discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal financial assistance.

In a lawsuit, Videckis and White alleged that the head coach of the women's basketball team at Pepperdine and others on staff began harassing them when they came to the conclusion that the two were in a lesbian relationship. The ruling said that Videckis and White claimed in their suit that among a number of discriminatory actions, head coach Ryan Weisenberg held a team leadership meeting where he spoke about lesbianism:

In the meeting, Coach Ryan stated that lesbianism was a big concern for him and for women’s basketball, that it was a reason why teams lose, and that it would not be tolerated on the team.

Pepperdine had argued that Title IX didn't cover discrimination claims based on sexual orientation. The court previously sided with the university, stating that "the line between discrimination based on gender stereotyping and discrimination based on sexual orientation is blurry, at best.”

In last week's ruling, however, the court concluded that the difference is "illusory and artificial" and that sexual orientation discrimination isn't a category distinct from sex or gender discrimination. The ruling may mean a broader interpretation of the historic Title IX law.

Here's the ruling: