Olympic gold medalist and Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus broke from her usually quiet private life yesterday when she told the Associated Press that she's speaking out against the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in her adopted home state. Augustus is an out lesbian, currently engaged to marry her longtime girlfriend LaTaya Varner.
"I felt like it was the perfect time for me, being on a platform where I can make a change with my voice and my situation," Augustus told the AP. "Maybe inspire someone else to come out and be comfortable with themselves. Or maybe someone else's parents will see my parents saying that it's OK to be with your child and love your child unconditionally regardless of your sexual preference."
Augustus came out to her still-supportive parents in high school, and has never been particularly closeted, reports the AP.
But it wasn't until Augustus asked Varner to marry her that Augustus found herself wanting to use her celebrity to advocate for marriage equality. The couple is planning their May nuptials and considering driving to neighboring Iowa, where marriage equality has been legal since 2009.
In November, Minnesotans will vote on whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman. The state already has a ban on same-sex marriage, but the proposed legislation, appearing on ballots as Amendment 1, would solidify the discriminatory policy into the state's constitution.
Advocates of the constitutional amendment say they are protecting "traditional marriage" from the threat of "activist judges" who, they say, could overturn the state-level marriage equality ban on constitutional grounds. That's what happened in Iowa, when the state Supreme Court unanimously found the marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered the state to enact marriage equality. Three of the four justices who issued that ruling have been defeated in their retention votes. David Wiggins, the fourth in the unanimous vote, is up for a retention vote this year, and faces an uphill battle.
"I just never understood why someone else's love life and who they love and who they choose to be with affects so many other people's lives," said Augustus. "Is it a scare of, 'Gay people are going to be running around and everyone's going to turn gay?' I never understood the whole point of opposing or hating someone else's happiness."
For her part, Augustus said her teammates, coaches, and team ownership have been exceedingly supportive of her identity. "For the most part, to be honest, everyone thinks the WNBA is one big lesbo-party anyway," Augustus told the AP. "So the coming out process isn't as tough for us because people are already expecting it…. It's just hard to deal with that [assumption] at times because that's all people talk about, not really the quality of basketball in this league and how we've grown… I've never seen a basketball player that looks like a beauty pageant winner. We go out here, we work hard, we sweat, we have our hair all over. It's a very physical sport. We have to have a certain body type in order to play this game."
That doesn't mean Augustus is ashamed to be an out lesbian playing in the WNBA, though. She told the AP she feels wonderful about being out and advocating for equality. "I'm trailblazing," she said. "It feels great."