NCLR Settles Suit on Behalf of Gay Ice Skaters
May 16, 2006
BERKLEY, Calfornia — This week, award-winning amateur figure skaters John Manzon-Santos and Alan Lessik reached a settlement with ice skating rink company East Bay Iceland, which will require its employees to undergo diversity training and prominently display placards in part stating "[Iceland] undertakes continual efforts to open the world of skating to individuals in an environment free from intimidation, harassment, or bias." Manzon-Santos and Lessik are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Fred Alvarez, Amy Todd, and Tamara Fisher of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
While training for the pairs competition at Berkeley, California's Iceland, Manzon-Santos and Lessik alleged they were harassed, discriminated against, and kicked out of their home rink for skating together, hampering their ability to practice their routines and properly train for the Gay Games. Manzon-Santos and Lessik filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court seeking redress for the alleged discrimination they faced under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Berkeley Municipal Code, both of which prohibit discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation.
"East Bay Iceland is a model partner," said Karen Doering, senior counsel with NCLR. "They seriously listened to our concerns, recognized discrimination is damaging, and are taking every step to ensure discrimination does not happen at their establishments, including educating all of their employees with diversity trainings."
In addition to mandatory diversity training for all of its employees and placards placed at East Bay Iceland's three locations in Berkeley, Dublin, and Belmont, the corporation will make donations to both NCLR and the Federation of Gay Games. East Bay Iceland will issue a public apology and confirm their commitment to equal treatment of all patrons. Berkeley Iceland will host a Gay/Straight Skate Night on a monthly basis, as well as sign the "Tip of the Iceberg" anti-discrimination pledge. The Berkeley rink will offer weekly "pairs preferred" freestyle skating sessions, and Manzon-Santos and Lessik shall receive free admission to the sessions for one year.
John Manzon-Santos is an avid adult figure skater and ice dancer who began skating in 2001, Manzon-Santos has been awarded medals at regional and international competitions including Gay Games VI in Sydney, Australia, in November 2002, where he won two gold medals. He is a member of the Ice Skating Institute and the United States Figure Skating Association.
Alan Lessik began figure skating as an adult at the age of 46. Since his first competition in 2002, Lessik has participated in competitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and at Gay Games VI in Sydney, Australia, where he won two silver medals. Lessik is a delegate to the Board of the Federation of Gay Games, representing the International Gay Figure Skating Union. Additionally, he is a member of the Ice Skating Institute, and the United States Figure Skating Association.
NCLR's Sports Project aims to level the playing field for LGBT players and coaches and to eliminate homophobia and gender identity discrimination in sports through litigation, advocacy, and outreach.
To learn more about the case, settlement, and NCLR's Sports Project, visit For more information: www.nclrights.org. – Issued by Gay Link Content
Why is figure skating so gay?