Originally written by qDot for mmorgy.com

Ok, I swear, this is it. After this, we'll actually post new, interesting things about something other than the WoW thing.

But, for the moment.

As we picked up from Kotaku last week, gay rights legal firm Lambda Legal had taken up the legal banner for gay WoW players. The firm has now sent a letter to Blizzard explaining why their actions could cause lawsuits in the future. The body of the letter is in the extended section of this post.

Picked this one up via Kotaku, and the comment thread on the post is still flamerific, though the arguments aren't really varying much anymore. I still don't see this ending well for anyone, though.

Dear Mr. Mohaime and Mr. Rigole,

Lambda Legal is the nations oldest and largest organization
dedicated to achieving full civil rights for lesbians, gay men,
bisexuals, transgender persons, and people living with HIV through
impact litigation, education and public policy work. We recently
have been in contact with Greg Wu and Sara Andrews, who are
customers of Blizzard Entertainment, regarding their concern that
certain employees of Blizzard Entertainment have discriminated
against World of Warcraft (W.O.W.) players based on their sexual
orientation and/or gender identity.

As we understand it, on January 12, 2006 Tirauka, a senior
account administrator with Blizzard, issued Ms. Andrews a warning
claiming that Ms. Andrews public announcement of an LGBT
(lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) friendly gaming guild for
W.O.W. players violated the W.O.W Harassment Policy. When Ms.
Andrews asked how the mere mention of an LGBT-friendly guild could
violate the W.O.W. Harassment Policy, Blizzards account
administrator Gorido followed up with correspondence seeming to
argue that because other players may choose to harass LGBT
players, the mere mention of an LGBT-friendly guild violates the
World of Warcraft terms of service.

Subsequent statements to the media made by Blizzards
representatives seem to confirm that Blizzards official position
is that LGBT gamers may not mention their sexual orientation or
gender identity using the games chat functions. Blizzards online
message boards include a post apparently issued by Blizzard
stating, in pertinent part,

To promote a positive game environment for everyone and help
prevent such harassment from taking place as best we can, we
prohibit mention of topics related to sensitive real-world
subjects in open chat within the game, and we do our best to take
action whenever we see such topics being broadcast. This includes
openly advertising a guild friendly to players based on a
particular political, sexual, or religious preference, to list a
few examples.

We are very concerned that Blizzards policy, as expressed in the
foregoing statement, discriminates against LGBT gamers. Although
preventing harassment is an admirable goal, a requirement that
LGBT people remain invisible and silent is not an acceptable means
of reaching that goal.

Mr. Wu is the guild leader of Stonewall Champions, the largest
LGBT-friendly guild in W.O.W. Ms. Andrews is the guild leader of
Oz, an LGBT-friendly guild on the Shadow Moon Server. As leaders
of LGBT-friendly guilds, Mr. Wu and Ms. Andrews are both very
concerned that Blizzards policy will hamper the guilds ability
to provide a safe and supportive gaming environment.

We agree that World of Warcrafts Harassment Policy, which clearly
states that players may not refer to the sexual orientation of
others in an insulting manner, is laudable and legal. Indeed, we
applaud Blizzards efforts to create a congenial gaming atmosphere
where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can
interact without fear of harassment or insult.

Although Blizzard is well within its rights to insist that players
avoid referring to other gamers in an insulting manner, Blizzard
cannot issue a blanket ban on any mention of sexual orientation or
gender identity. There is nothing insulting about identifying
oneself as gay, lesbian or transgender, nor does the announcement
of a guild for LGBT gamers constitute harassment in any sense of
the word. If other players react insultingly to the mere presence
of LGBT gamers, then Blizzard should discipline the harassers, not
attempt preemptively to silence the potential victims of

Online environments are public accommodations, subject to
regulation as such. Butler v. Adoption Media, L.L.C., 2005 WL
1513142 (N.D.Cal.). Discrimination against LGBT individuals in the
provision of public accommodations is clearly prohibited by
California law. Id., see also, Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq. It has
been so for more than fifty years. Stouman v. Reilly, 234 P.2d 969
(Cal. 1951). Insisting that LGBT persons not discuss their sexual
orientation or gender identity can constitute discrimination under
California law. Erdmann v. Tranquility Inc., 155 F.Supp.2d 1152
(N.D.Cal. 2001) (in which an employee who experienced a hostile
environment at his workplace, including being instructed by a
supervisor to keep [his homosexuality] in the closet while he
[was] at work, stated a cause of action for employment
discrimination); see also Gay Law Students v. Pacific Telephone &
Telegraph, 595 P.2d 592 (1978) (same); Henkle v. Gregory, 150
F.Supp.2d 1067 (D.Nev.2001) (discussing students right to discuss
their sexual orientation at school); Colin v. Orange Unified
School District, 83 F.Supp.2d 1135 (C.D.Cal.2000) (addressing
students right to use the word gay in the name of their school

In the few short years since the advent of multi-user dungeons,
the world of online gaming has grown from a niche hobby enjoyed by
a small community of enthusiasts to a phenomenon shared by
millions. We understand that the rapid growth of the online
environment has created challenges for companies like Blizzard,
who are striving to ensure a civil and enjoyable experience for a
large and diverse body of gamers. We hope that you will realize
that silencing LGBT gamers, and requiring that they remain
invisible to their fellows within the online gaming world, is not
an acceptable means of advancing that end.

We understand that Blizzard has recently withdrawn its citation of
Ms. Andrews for allegedly violating World of Warcrafts harassment
policy. An e-mail from Thor Biafore, the head of Blizzards
customer service worldwide, acknowledges that the action taken
against Ms. Andrews was based on an unfortunate interpretation
of Blizzards current policies.

In order to avoid any similar incidents in the future, we ask that
you inform all of Blizzards system administrators that they are
not to discipline any players for mentioning or discussing sexual
orientation or gender identity in a non-insulting fashion. We also
ask that Blizzard confirm that LGBT-friendly guilds are allowed to
announce their existence in the same manner as any other guilds.
Of course, Lambda Legal would be more than happy to offer any
advice we can to assist Blizzard in crafting a nondiscriminatory
clarification of the terms of service for W.O.W., or in providing
guidance to the administrators enforcing Blizzards
anti-harassment guidelines. We ask that you respond within thirty
days of the date of this letter to avoid the need for further

Very truly yours,

Brian Chase Staff Attorney*

Jennifer C. Pizer Senior Counsel

* Admitted in FL and LA, not admitted in CA.