The ACLU of Southern California today announced its intention to file an amended complaint in its federal class action lawsuit [Kaitlyn Baca vs City of Los Angeles 98-2865 R(RCx)] against the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Recreation and Parks to include all girls who wish to participate in City-sponsored softball and other athletic programs run by the City. The ACLU claims that the overwhelming majority of girls in Los Angeles do not have equal access to either City-sponsored softball leagues or to the many athletic programs paid for and run by the City currently available to boys.
The California Women's Law Center, dedicated to ensuring equality for women and girls, and the law firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler now also represent plaintiffs along with the ACLU.
In a letter sent to the City Attorney's Office the ACLU contends that the City has never adequately addressed the unequal and discriminatory treatment of the original plaintiffs, the West Valley Girls' Softball, a 400-member privately-run, non-profit organizational sponsor of girls' softball begun in 1969. The ACLU says that as a result of investigation undertaken as part of the lawsuit, it is abundantly clear that girls city-wide are denied access to the City's recreational programs, services and facilities that are freely and abundantly available to young men.
"There can be no justification for the City of Los Angeles to deny any child the opportunity to play an athletic team sport because she is a girl," said ACLU attorney Rocio Cordoba. "Such treatment of our City's female youth is not only illegal, it is debasing and brands girls as inferior, second class citizens. Denying girls access to public playing fields, and relegating them to temporary, inferior facilities, only serves to perpetuate gender-based stereotypes that girls' athletics somehow are less deserving or inferior to boys' athletics. These over-broad generalizations about different talents, capacities and preferences of males and females historically have served to deny women equal protection of the laws and thus cannot be tolerated."
The April lawsuit was the first brought against a city or county park department for discriminatory treatment of girls in the use of public recreational facilities. The suit was filed after repeated attempts by the WVGS to get a permit for permanent facilities at City-run parks. WVGS members were forced to spend significant time and resources to secure piecemeal temporary permits to play in sub-standard school fields, even to the point of carrying in dirt to improve the only fields made available to them. Plaintiffs claim that not only does Recreation and Parks give the boys' leagues permanent access to smooth, safe and well-maintained park fields with bleachers, dug-outs and concession stands, it also sponsors three West Valley boys' leagues.