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Justic watch: Keeping an eye on the law

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A field of their own

BEND, ORE. - The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Nov. 20 the settlement of a groundbreaking lawsuit that allows a girls' community softball team to have equal access to city playing fields. The agreement will provide a dedicated playing field for senior girls' softball in the city's main outdoor sports complex, and enable the girls' league to host at least two tournaments annually.

"We are delighted that girls in Grants Pass will now have equal athletic opportunities, and we hope that other cities and towns across the country will follow this example," said Emily Martin, a staff attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project.

The Oregon lawsuit, Bellum v. Grants Pass, was filed by the ACLU in April 2002 on behalf of a group of girls age 8-18 who compete in the Amateur Softball Association's Grants Pass Blaze softball league. The city had dedicated two high-quality fields to the exclusive use of two boys' baseball leagues, forcing the girls of the Blaze league to share remaining playing fields with all the teams in the city's Little League, as well as with the local high school's varsity softball teams and community adult leagues.

The ACLU lawsuit charged that the city's athletic policy violated the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, as well as a state constitutional guarantee of gender equality and the state public accommodations law. The city denied it discriminated and the case was settled prior to any court determination.

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