Doug Christie married his wife, Jackie Christie, 17 years ago. Every year they have celebrated their anniversary with a wedding to renew their vows. This year, they chose to do so at Eleven, a gay bar in West Hollywood, at the unveiling of their NOH8 photo. The happy couple wanted to bring awareness to the struggle for same-sex marriage. It's a struggle that touches both of them deeply.
"It’s something that’s passionate to both of our hearts," Doug told Outsports, "and something that we want to share with the gay and lesbian community. Marriage is about love. And not only heterosexual people love each other, everyone loves each other, and everyone should be able to experience marriage, love and all the things that come with that.”
Jackie said the reaction to their wedding at Eleven has been overwhelmingly positive. Still, she did hear some questions about it and got some raised eyebrows. It's only made them more convicted in their support.
"That’s even more reason for us to do anything and everything in the community to bring awareness," Jackie said. "The ignorance of what same-sex marriage is all about, and couples that love each other regardless of what their gender is, is unfair. And that’s why we’re going to be brave, and w’ere going to stand up and make noise."
Both of them grew up with gay people in their lives. For Jackie, it was her late sister and her sister's partner, Anna, who had a strong influence on her life. Her mother had gay, lesbian and transgender friends who would frequent their house with revelry.
"It’s never been a strange thing to me or a bad thing to me,” Jackie said.
Doug also grew up with a family member who is gay. In addition, a gay man was a close family friend. Doug said growing up in a small community, homosexuality was not something that was relatively popular. But to his family it was not an issue.
"We had music and we had food, and we came and we danced, and we partied, and we had a good time, and we fished, and all these different things, and nobody really paid attention to that," Doug said. "It was the person, the love, the specialness.”
Doug carried that attitude with him to the NBA, where the play on the court was all that mattered in a teammate.
"It doesn't matter who is passing the ball, who’s setting a pick, who’s scoring the point," Doug said. "It doesn’t matter if that is their lifestyle. It would have absolutely no effect.”
Doug said he read out former NBA player John Amaechi's book, Man in the Middle, and is proud of Amaechi for standing up and being himself. He also thinks the vast majority of NBA players wouldn't have any problem with Amaechi or any other gay person on their team.
"I bet if you go back and look at any of his teammates, nobody has a bad thing to say about John Amaechi because John Amaechi is a person," Doug said. "He’s not a 'gay person,' like there’s a stigma that comes with it. No, he’s just a person. Everybody is okay with who they are. We’re playing a sport. And inside that sport, your lifestyle doesn’t take any credence when you’re out there playing. Once you’re done and you leave and you do whatever you do, that’s what you do with yourself. But when you’re out there competeing and you’re out there in the trenches with these guys, it doesn’t matter. And it wouldn’t matter to me, definitely.”
Doug may be right. In a Sports Illustrated poll in 2006, 60% of NBA players polled said they would "welcome" a gay teammate. Given the direction of sports and the rest of the nation, you have to assume that number has increased, possibly in dramatic fashion.
Doug said that while athletes may hear casual homophobia, like "faggot," in high school locker rooms, professional athletes rarely use that kind of language.
“With each state, high school, college, pros, what do you gain? You gain knowledge," Doug said. "You understand that it doesn’t matter. When you’re in high school, your friends can peer pressure you and influence you a lot more than they can when you’re in college. When you’re in college, you’re experimenting, you’re going out, you’re seeing people. Now you have gay and lesbian friends, and you see that these people are awesome. Then by the time you get to the pros, it’s nothing. And that’s really where it’s at.”
Doug played in the NBA for 14 seasons, spending most of that time with the Toronto Raptors and the Sacramento Kings. From 2001-'04, with the Kings, he was on the NBA's All-Defensive First or Second Team each season. He's 30th on the NBA's all-time list for career steals, just behind Larry Bird.