Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
College basketball, 2007: Rene Portland had a simple rule during her 27 years as Penn State's women's basketball team -- no lesbians were allowed. Finally, in 2007, after the culmination of a lawsuit by former player Jen Harris and fought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Portland resigned as coach. Our 2007 headline on a column by Pat Griffin said it all: "Rene Portland resigns, lesbian athletes rejoice." Portland bragged openly about her no-lesbians policy, telling the Chicago Sun-Times in 1986:
"I will not have it in my program. I bring it up, and the kids are so relieved, and the parents are so relieved."
Portland was a success on the court, winning 600 games as Penn State's coach. But in her last two seasons, she had a losing record, which made it easier for Penn State to accept her resignation. Her homophobia, contrary to the school's nondiscrimination policy, was an embarrassment to the university, and the 2005 lawsuit filed by Jen Harris brought much unwanted media attention to the program. Times had changed and employing a homophobe was no longer acceptable.
The controversy and Portland's 27-year run were chronicled in the documentary film Training Rules.
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