Gay Group Goes Full-Court Press on Penn State

Penn State blinked, but attorneys at the National Center for Lesbian Rights want more.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco group announced that an internal investigation by Nittany Lion officials had concluded that Lady Lions’ basketball coach Rene Portland had created a “hostile, intimidating and offensive environment” for a former player she believed was gay.

But rather than fire Portland, the group noted, Penn State fined her $10,000, issued a written reprimand and warned the long-time coach to stop discriminating. That upset NCLR attorneys, who have filed a suit against Penn State and Portland, which they claim has a long history of mistreating basketball players who are — or are suspected to be — lesbian.

“We are deeply disappointed that Penn State has chosen such a minor rebuke to address such a systemic, quarter-century-long problem,” said NCLR senior counsel Karen Doering.

NCLR went after Portland on behalf of Jennifer Harris, a former Lady Lion guard who fled Penn State rather than endure what she considered harassment and threats by Portland. Harris, who says she is heterosexual, transferred to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she will play basketball next season.

In a statement, Harris said she was disappointed that Penn State “did not take the allegations seriously.”

NCLR attorneys said they will proceed with a court-ordered mediation set for mid-May.

“Given the damage done by Penn State and the personal sacrifice of Jennifer Harris,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said, “the consequences faced by Rene Portland are insulting and inadequate.”

Mike McKee

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