Wendy Weaver was pensive when we
spoke with her on May 22, 2000, in Salem, Utah. That morning, her high
school had held its annual awards assembly during which awards and trophies
were handed out to individuals and teams for extracurricular activities.
As a coach, she was used to being involved in the assembly, cheering the
accomplishments of her players. Since 1982 she had lead the girls' volleyball
team to four state championships and numerous winning seasons. But this
year, in the wake of the school district's refusal to allow her to continue
to coach because of her sexual orientation, Wendy Weaver was a spectator.
"I was well known and liked at school-both
as a teacher and a coach. I didn't think it would make a difference when
[my partner] and I bought a house and moved in together. Then during the
summer vacation, this student called me at home. She asked me if I was
gay. I knew that people knew-my ex-husband had told people in our community-I
just said, `Yes.'
"Then I got a call from the principal saying
we need to talk. The school district issued a memo-really a gag order-saying
I could not speak to anyone associated with the school district about my
personal life. At first I didn't know what to do. But the more I thought
about it the more I realized it was crazy, it was impossible to comply
with. I couldn't even talk to [my partner] because our children attend
school in the district. I even asked them to modify the order so that it
was less broad, but they refused. They also told me I wouldn't be coaching
"At first I didn't know what to do. I spoke
with lots of lawyers about employment discrimination but they said they
couldn't help me because there is no protection from discrimination based
on sexual orientation. Finally we met with the ACLU of Utah and they agreed
to take the case.
"It's been hard. All the publicity. The charges
of immorality. We were worried about the impact of going public on our
kids. But I got a lot of quiet support-people saying, `I don't agree with
your lifestyle but . . . .'
"It was important for me to fight this. The
students don't understand their rights-they are so traumatized that they
never even think of organizing. Maybe this has helped some of them."