Gay Ice Skaters Agree to Settlement with Iceland

Judith Scherr
Friday May 12, 2006

Gay ice skaters Alan Lessik and John Manzon-Santos praised Wednesday’s mediated settlement of a lawsuit in which they charged a Berkeley Iceland employee with discrimination. 

“I think it went really well. At the end we all agreed on the terms,” said Lessik, Western Regional Director for the American Friends Service Committee. “They apologized for any perception of discrimination.” 

In the complaint, filed in March with the Alameda County Superior Court, Lessik and Lessik’s ice-skating partner Manzon-Santos, executive director of the Asian Pacific Island Wellness Center, claimed that an Iceland employee booted them off the ice for no reason other than they were gay. 

Iceland Manager Jay Wescott said he feels good about the agreement. “I have a greater awareness of how sensitive the issue can be,” he said. 

“Berkeley Iceland will do everything it can to be more inclusive,” said Helen Carroll, sports project director with the National Coalition of Lesbian Rights, the organization that filed the lawsuit along with the law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. “It’s a model for other ice rinks,” she said. 

Among the terms of the agreement, brokered with the help of the National Coalition for Lesbian Rights, are requirements for Iceland employees to undergo diversity training, for the rink to display placards stating it “undertakes continual efforts to open the world of skating to individuals in an environment free from intimidation, harassment, or bias,” to issue a public apology and to host a monthly gay-straight skate night.  

Lessik said he was particularly happy with the promise of gay-straight alliance nights. 

“The issue is that LGBT persons feel safe with allies,” he said. 

And he said the diversity training is key. “It’s important to understand that there are lots of different ways to look at people,” he said..