While more than half of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams this summer will host events recognizing fans in the LGBT community, a scheduled appearance next month in St. Louis by retired All-Star and former Yankee Lance Berkman has come under scrutiny from LGBT groups.
Berkman in 2015 opposed an equal-opportunity ordinance in Houston granting transgender bathroom rights. Berkman appeared in a political advertisement against the ordinance, which was voted down.
“We are beyond disappointed that the Cardinals would host Lance Berkman at ‘Christian Night’ at Busch Stadium,’’ Steph Perkins, executive director of Promoting Equality for All Missourians, wrote in a text Friday. “Berkman is known for his anti-LGBT views, particularly an anti-transgender TV ad opposing Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance, where he called transgender women ‘troubled men.’ These are not the values of St. Louis, and we sincerely hope these are not the values of the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Perkins’ comments followed an earlier statement from Pride St. Louis, another LGBT advocacy group, saying in part, “Pride St. Louis is disappointed by the decision of the St. Louis Cardinals to provide a public platform for Berkman, an individual whose words and actions towards the LGBT are divisive and demeaning . . . ”
The Cardinals, one of Berkman’s former teams, have no plan to rescind the July 30 invitation to Christian Day at Busch Stadium, reiterating an earlier statement saying, “As an organization, the Cardinals have always been committed to bringing like-minded groups together to share in the unifying experience of Cardinals baseball. We are an inclusive organization with a social responsibility to be welcoming to all types of people and organizations. We continue to try and reach out to every part of our community.’’
Berkman, in a statement to Newsday earlier in the week, said his stance against the ordinance was taken “to preserve the rights of my wife, daughters, and thousands of other women in Houston restrooms and locker rooms without the presence of a biological male.’’
In a phone interview from Houston, Berkman, 41, said, “What I was talking about has nothing to do with individual human beings. Human beings are God’s creation. Everybody’s deserving of respect and acceptance. I don’t feel like anybody should be discriminated against. I would welcome anybody that wanted to come hear me speak. They might be surprised at what they hear . . . ”
Berkman said he is not opposed to the LGBT community. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that people are born with proclivity to be homosexual,’’ he said.
(“Homosexual” is a word that has been targeted by GLAAD and other organizations, including The Associated Press, as offensive and only to be used in a direct quote).
He added, “I don’t doubt that at all. But the ultimate issue comes down to who gets to make the rules. If you’re a Bible-believing Christian, you believe that God gets to make the rules. Not everybody’s going to agree on this. Some people would say this is how I was born, this is who I am, I have every right to do that, and from a secular standpoint in this country, that’s absolutely true. You have every right. When you’re talking about having a different moral outlook on things based on what you read in the Bible, it’s different. It doesn’t mean that we can’t coexist, but there’s going to be a difference of opinion on it.’’
Billy Bean, MLB’s ambassador for inclusion, said, “Lance is entitled to his opinion. He does not work for Major League Baseball . . . I would just hope [Berkman’s message] is positive and not to take advantage and not to go after any segment of our society or MLB fan base.’’
Bean said he worked with the Cardinals to schedule a Pride Night, which is now set for Aug. 25.
Berkman, who played 12 seasons with the Astros, batted .293 with 366 home runs in a 15-year career that ended in 2013. He played for the Yankees in 2010.