Lesbian College Soccer Coach Outed By Partner’s Unborn Child, Forced to Resign

A women’s soccer coach at Belmont University, in Tennessee, resigned yesterday following pressure from the administration after announcing she and her partner were pregnant.

Lisa Howe, who was at the university for six seasons, told her team that the athletics department had told her to resign or be terminated following the discussion of her partner’s pregnancy.

“She said she needed to resign or she was going to be fired because of the choices she had made with her life,” said Ashley Hudak, who is on the team, in an interview with the Tennessean. “She said she had tried to clear telling us she was having a baby through the athletic department and they weren’t allowing her to.”

In a statement released by the university, Mick Strickland, the athletics director, said that Howe decided to resign on her own, without further explanation.

Sari Lin, the team captain, told the Tennessean that she had met with Strickland and he had told her Howe was violating the university’s policy on sexuality: “He basically said we have the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and when she told us about the pregnancy, it violated that. She was telling us what her sexual preference is. He said you can hide your sexuality, but you can’t hide a baby. He pretty much told me that once the baby was born she was going to get fired anyway, so it’s better to do it sooner than later.”

In the release, Howe is quoted as saying, “I appreciate Belmont University giving me the opportunity to lead the women’s soccer program for the last six seasons. I was able to accomplish some career goals at Belmont that will always remain as some of my greatest achievements. I want to thank all the student-athletes who worked so hard for and dedicated themselves to me and the program.”

According to the Tennessean, Strickland, Betty Wiseman, an athletics assistant direction, and the president of the university declined or refused to comment.

This is yet another friendly reminder about the importance of ENDA, or the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. The bill would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for civilian nonreligious employers with over 15 employees.

ENDA has been introduced in every Congress except one since 1994, but has yet to pass. Obama supports the bill but George W. threatened to veto it if it passed.

You can see on the map below which states have some form of protection for GLBTQ people. Wisconsin was the first to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation (in 1982) and Minnesota was the first to ban employment discrimination against both sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Tennessee Human Rights Act does not currently protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In September, Queerty reported:

With all this talk about repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, one other little gay equality law has disappeared from the radar. Don’t make me spell it out for you. (OK: It’s the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.) Turns out all those GetEQUAL traffic jams won’t be enough to get Congress to bring ENDA to a vote this year.

On the bright side: It’s great news for employers looking to shed some dead weight without offering severance packages to the queers. No ENDA = Protecting heterosexual jobs!

I mean that’s pretty crazy, right? It’s one thing to not be allowed to get married, but any queers living in the south has absolutely no protection from being fired for sexual orientation or gender identity.

In other news, how the f*ck are they going to find a straight women’s soccer coach?

Carolyn Yates was formerly the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles by way of Montreal and Toronto. Find her on twitter or instagram.

Carolyn has written 964 articles for us.

56 Comments

  1. Unfortunately I am not at all surprised. Belmont is a “Christian” University. Even if Tennessee did have ENDA, I’m sure they would try to argue that homosexuality is against their beliefs or something.

    • Actually, hatred is a central value of Christianity, and I offer the following as evidence:

      – millions of Native Americans murdered, tortured, raped, and exterminated in the name of the spread of Christianity

      – the victims of the Inquisition

      – the victims of the Crusades

      Better yet, just go ahead and read the Bible, and learn about the vengeful, totalitarian, murderous Christian god.

      This soccer coach got off easy!

      • Those are people acting on their misinterpretations. Jesus was all about loving the down trodden and those who society shunned, and pointing out how hypocritical those who thought they were all righteous and godly were.
        The Crusaders and Inquisitors epically failed Christianity.
        /Christiannerdrant
        /beingchristiansuckssometimes

        • WORD.

          The hatred people are acting on gross misinterpretations based on people pulling things out of the Old Testament and taking them out of historical context, and continuing to ignore the fact that most of the gross stuff they’re touting was thrown out in the New Testament.

          I mean, I honestly don’t blame the LGBT community having negative feelings towards Christianity. We can say it’s just vocal radical fundamentalists, but when they’re louder than the sane ones, it doesn’t exactly give the entire religion the best track record.

          Idk. I’m queer, I’m Christian, and I’m pretty Jesus was a hippie liberal who would be disgusted by this ish.

      • Look peoples y’all need to stop blaming Christians. Seriously there are a lot of religions in this world that hate against the gay community. I’m christian and I’m bi and I have christian friends and have known church members who are OK with the gay community. Jesus loves everybody!! Why can’t you all just chill! Look into the religion before you speak! I have plenty of gay friends whose family are Catholics and they got kicked out of their houses for being gay! THE POINT IS DON’T HATE ON CHRISTIANS KNOWING THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER RELIGIONS OUTING ON THE GAY COMMUNITY!!!!!!! Damn! you make being Christian and gay even harder by complaining about Christianity! Have you ever considered parts of the gay community who are Christians? Have you ever considered some Christians who are straight who love the gay community!???? NOT EVERY CHRISTIAN IN THIS WORLD HATES THE GAY COMMUNITY! Before I accepted I was gay I was a straight Christian who loved the gay community. I never judged I loved. DON’T SPEAK FOR EVERYBODY SPEAK FOR YOURSELF! BECAUSE NOT ALL CHRISTIANS HATE THE GAY COMMUNITY! I AM NOT PERFECT BUT I DO PRACTICE LOVING MY NEIGHBOR AS I LOVE MYSELF AS BEST I CAN! I SUGGEST YOU ALL DO THE SAME! IGNORE THE HATE AND FOCUS ON THE LOVE! IF A CHRISTIAN HAS DONE YOU WRONG IN THE PAST FORGIVE AND FORGET IT AND MOVE ON! THERE IS ALREADY PLENTY OF HATE THE WORLD LET US NOT INCREASE IT!

        • I made a general comment, but I wanted to make a few specific points about what you have to say here.

          “Look into the religion before you speak!”

          Actually looking into Christianity, its texts, and its doctrines was what brought me to the point of view I now have. Prior to that, I mostly went by personal experience (I was raised Catholic), and what people said about the religion. Actually looking at the religion’s doctrines first hand was an eye-opening experience.

          “THE POINT IS DON’T HATE ON CHRISTIANS KNOWING THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER RELIGIONS OUTING ON THE GAY COMMUNITY!!!!!!!”

          I agree that there are plenty of other relgions “hating” on the gay community (I’m assuming you meant that instead of “outing”), which is one of the many reasons why I am skeptical of them, too.

          “Damn! you make being Christian and gay even harder by complaining about Christianity!”

          I am not what makes being Christian and gay hard. The fact that Christianity is blatantly homophobic – that is what makes it hard.

          “Have you ever considered parts of the gay community who are Christians?”

          Yes. I considered myself Catholic at one time.

          “NOT EVERY CHRISTIAN IN THIS WORLD HATES THE GAY COMMUNITY!”

          Of course that’s true. But I question their adherence to a religion that advocates for the killing of people who fuck members of the same sex (and for the horrendous treatment of women, and for slavery, etc.)

          “IGNORE THE HATE AND FOCUS ON THE LOVE!”

          No, I won’t. I won’t ignore the hatred and wrongdoing that comes about as a result of Christianity (and other religions). I’ll treat it in exactly the same way as I treat other acts of a similar stripe.

          “IF A CHRISTIAN HAS DONE YOU WRONG IN THE PAST FORGIVE AND FORGET IT AND MOVE ON!”

          As I say, my point of view didn’t come about as a result of some personal experience from my past, it came about as I learned more about Christianity. I was put through a lot of bullshit as a result of Christianity, but growing up in a fairly small town, the church is really more about community than about specific religious doctrine. Though I now question a community based on doctrine of which it is ignorant…

          Your error is that you are mistaking my questioning of religion and Christianity as hostility towards Christians as people.

      • This comment is in response to KZ, Christina, JesusISmyHOMIE&I’mGAY, and Dina.

        1. I think this video speaks to many of the points you all are making:

        I don’t agree with the part at the end where Zinnia says people “shouldn’t be religious.” I think it’s silly to tell people they should or shouldn’t be religious. I also don’t agree with dismissing the Bible based on the grounds that it is 2,000 years old, or suggesting that this means it has no bearing on modern life. The rest of the video, however, raises some important points.

        2. I used to think that the violence I mentioned above was really due to people’s misinterpretations, and not Christianity itself, but then I had a good look at things like the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and the tenants of Christianity, and I discovered that these acts of violence and domination were not an interpretation. They are the actual doctrine of Christianity.

        The Bible openly, repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms advocates for the death of people who do not obey the Christian god. In the Old Testament, killing and torture are commonly suggested as the only correct solution for a problem.

        In the New Testament, Jesus was not the peaceable, fair-mined character that he is commonly portrayed as being. The thing he talks about most often is that people should agree with his belief system, and that doing anything else is foolish and even dangerous.

        As for the “don’t take the Bible literally” argument, I would suggest that people read the Bible with the same standards of critical thinking that they read any other book. The Bible has not earned some special status that makes it exempt from things like reason, logic, argumentation, etc. No book has. The same goes for Christianity. It should be subjected to the same debate, critical questioning, and scrutiny that anything else it. It has no special status whatsoever.

        Christianity comforts some people, but at what cost? This soccer coach lost her job because of this insanity. Other people have lost their freedom or their lives.

        Christianity should not be given a free pass. I feel it’s wrong not to call that religion and its adherents out on some of this craziness, and I feel it’s wrong to soften the criticisms or offset them by adding in a bunch of wording that purports to be about fairness, but is really just there because people are afraid of the criticism that can come from plainly stating that Christian doctrine is unethical. The bullshit isn’t carried out in the name of the religion, but because of it.

        • Oops, “that anything else it” is supposed to say, “that anything else is.” I’m sure there’s other typos lingering in there, though they are not revealing themselves to my tired brain right now.

  2. HEY RIESE !

    We need an official Autostraddle baby shower present for this coach–waddaya think?

    Surely the Intern Army can track her down–
    Well yes, they probably could…and please stop calling me Shirley–

    Let us know where to send $–

  3. Yeah, as a Nashville area local, I nearly choked when I read this today on the Tennessean’s website. As of now, there are 299 comments from readers and I know 298 of them will severely piss me off.

    Here’s a link to the story in case anyone is wondering how ignorant some Tennesseans are: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20101203/SPORTS06/12030362/Belmont+disputes+gay+coach+was+fired

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  5. I clearly need to move. Seeing as how I live in a gray state, I pretty much have no where to go but up. I have family in TN, and I’m really not at all surprised.

    Belmont needs to get a WWJD bracelet or something, because I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t fire an employee who’s about to have a child to support.

  6. This is crazy!

    5 years ago I actually played against Belmont and this coach specifically. She completely turned the program around. My university team KILLED them 2 years prior and she bright in great recruits and strategy. They were extremely competitive after she took the reins. I think they even finished towards the top some years.

    She will be very missed I am sure.

    Belmont, may outrage and protest be brought to you.

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  8. If Jesus were at Belmont he’d tell the person responsible for her firing to kindly fuck off and make sure coach at least had enough loaves and fish to feed her family.
    Then he d fly off to save othere people from intolerance and explain what’s really in i can’t believe its not butter.

  9. I follow Christ, I don’t agree with what happened. It might help to remember that the LGBTQ don’t appreciate the disrespect and slamming that happens agains them from all different sides. Doing the same to “the Christin Community” doesn’t sound any better… want friends or foes? Seriously…

    • I am gay and Christian (check out the United Church of Christ…we do exist).

      Here’s the thing though, can we really blame the anger and disillusion most LGBTQ members have against the church? The Catholic Church calls us child molesters, and, with the help of the Mormon Church, pours money into the suppression of our rights.

      We are bullied by children and adults alike who could quote Leviticus with their eyes closed…(context…what context?) nevermind they don’t know another dang bible quote in the entire book.

      We are thrown out of our homes, told we are going to hell, disowned, beaten, incarcerated (in some countries), hunted in others…all in the name of Christianity…

      Want friends or foes?? Friends, I definitely want friends but lets not discount the pain the LGBTQ community has endured in the name of religion. That is unfair, disrespectful, and naive to ignore those wounds.

      I won’t argue that the individuals who cause so much pain are missing the whole point…and I wouldn’t even call them Christians. However, they call themselves Christians, they wave their bibles, and they cause damage that in some cases can’t be undone.

      Maybe it’s time liberal and moderate Christians need to stop with the silence. Maybe it’s time we start speaking out against the vitriol that is being spewed. Maybe if we start doing that then my (or maybe our) LGBTQ family will stop feeling attacked by Christianity.

      Respect is earned, and we Christians have some work to do.

      • This this this. As much as it hurts me every time someone acts so shocked and surprised that I’m both Christian and liberal, or Christian and queer, I completely understand where that comes from–we don’t have the best track record. And it’s not really doing much for us to stand around all “well, that’s vocal fundamentalists, we’re not all like that,” when things like this are still allowed to happen.

  10. This is the university I attended and I was a member of the GSA they suppressed. After the first time they chose to not recognize the GSA they tried to pacify us with a “discussion group” on LGBT issues and the christian faith with the Dean of Students.
    I am fucking firebombing them with letters, e-mails, and calls and encouraging other alumni to do the same.
    If you want to help, e-mail Belmont President Bob Fisher at bob.fisher@belmont.edu, call 615-460-6793, and mail letters to:

    Office of the President
    Belmont University
    1900 Belmont Blvd.
    Nashville, TN 37212.

  11. So, I’m graduating from Belmont in a couple of weeks. I have so many words about this that I actually have nothing to say. Thankfully, though the administration wreaks havoc, much of the student body, faculty, and other staff members are very loving and supportive.

    • Girl he has enough on his plate! Anyhow, the quickest way to resolve this is to stand together on this, whether you are Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Straight or Trans, or whatever! Stand up for the coach! We the people have freedom of speech! [CHECK UR BILL OF RIGHTS IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR RIGHTS]

      If you are a student at that school start a petition! Make a riot! Go to the newspapers! Facebook! MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT!

      ***SPEAK ABOUT IT AT THE SCHOOL!***

    • Hopefully nothing. If the president stepped in and told private businesses or institutions who they could or couldn’t hire and fire, it would be a gross violation or his powers and duties as president. The Constitution describes the president’s powers in detail, and the average member of the American public would be shocked to discover how limited these powers actually are. Our government mostly ignores the Constitution, though, so maybe someday you’ll get what you wish for.

  12. I have been enjoying this website for months, but had to register to make a comment on this article. I am from Tennessee, played Division I soccer in Tennessee, so this really hit home for me. I’m glad I went to a school where I was 1 of 5 “out” players without discrimination. E-mail has been sent to Mr. Fisher. Best wishes to Ms. Howe and her family!

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