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Eastern Zone Swimming approves anti-discrimination policies

The Eastern Zone Swimming (EZS) approved a new policy barring it from doing business with discriminatory organizations. The group, which oversees 12 local swimming committees for USA Swimming, instituted this new policy because it believes that discriminatory practices violate the Sports Act, which gives certain rights and bargaining power to athletes in Olympic sports.

The measure was implemented in response to the location of the 2020 Zone Championship swim meet at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Concerns over Liberty hosting the event

Some EZS officials and athlete representatives voiced concerns about controversial comments made by the university’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr. Falwell has said previously that the school does not tolerate those of different sexual orientations and that it firmly stands behind traditional family values. The university’s policy does not discriminate on such lawfully-protected classes like race, color, ancestry, religion, age, sex, national origin, pregnancy, or disability, but it does say it can discriminate on the “basis of religion.” While EZS’s policies may not directly impact how the meet is run, Zone officials still worry if LGBTQ athletes and attendees who come to the event will be treated unfairly.

Protection policies in Virginia

In the state of Virginia, there are only municipal protections for LGBTQ individuals, and Lynchburg (the home of Liberty University) currently does not provide any such restrictions. EZS leaders say the school’s discriminatory practices, regardless of Virginia law, are still in violation of the Amateur Sports Act.

The end goal for Eastern Zone Swimming

While some of Liberty’s stances may be at odds with the zone’s new policy, the school is still set to host the 2020 Championship. Chief Diversity Officer of EZS Greg Dowell said he wants to make sure all LGBTQ swimmers feel safe and have a positive experience at the meet, despite the school’s controversial doctrine.

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