NOW Wows Palm Springs Crowd

by Kimberlee Ward

The hottest ticket at the recent LPGA Dinah Shore Open in Palm Springs, Calif., was to NOW's "Party with a Purpose," a star-studded benefit to raise money for NOW's Equality PAC. NOW also honored golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin for her personal and professional contributions to the sport.

In the whirlwind of women's parties and dances that surround the tournament, hundreds of women packed the ballroom of the Palm Springs Wyndham Hotel March 29 to see NOW President Patricia Ireland and Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey present Spencer-Devlin with a "Woman of Courage" award, and to enjoy the stage antics of comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer.

Following standing-room-only VIP reception, Ireland and Dempsey presented the award to Spencer-Devlin, the first member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association to come out as a lesbian. Looking on were the golfer's partner, Lynda Roth, and mother, Pat Devlin.

"Muffin Spencer-Devlin demonstrated immense courage in publicly coming out," Ireland said. "By speaking out proudly about her personal life, she moves us closer to the day when no woman in sports need fear media or sponsorship backlash to assertions, whether true or not, that she is a lesbian."

Spencer-Devlin, a veteran on the LPGA tour, went public as a lesbian shortly after CBS fired women's golf commentator Ben Wright, who made derogatory remarks about lesbians and their effects on the sport. NOW and GLAAD-New York publicly criticized the network's delay in firing Wright at a press conference last fall.

Westenhoefer, who also is an out lesbian, played off the theme of "coming out" during her benefit performance. Her sharp wit and clever use of political satire left the audience roaring with laughter.

The evening closed with a dance and music by the all-woman band, Halcyon. The Florida-based group went on to win the prestigious "Battle of the Girl Bands" competition the next evening.

Proceeds from the event will be used to support feminist candidates and to fund ballot measure campaigns. NOW's Equality PAC works with NOW chapter and state PACs to elect feminist candidates to local positions to fight right-wing legislation in their states and communities and also so there will be experienced feminist politicians ready to move into higher office. It also helps to defeat discriminatory ballot measures, such as Maine's anti-lesbian and gay rights initiative defeated last November.

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