Last week GamePolitics reported that a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) guild in World of Warcraft had been warned for violating Blizzard's Terms of Service. The issue was whether advertising a "LGBT friendly" guild was in violation of WoW's sexual harassment policy, which stated that you could not discuss sexual orientation in an "insulting" fashion.
The official Blizzard reprimand caused an outcry in the gay community, and many accused the WoW publisher of being discriminatory toward homosexuals. Kotaku subsequently reported that Lambda Legal, an organization which champions gay civil rights, was looking into the incident for potential violations of California's anti-discrimination laws.
Yesterday, Lambda Legal took an official position on the WoW dust-up. According to Kotaku, they sent a letter to Blizzard, questioning their policies on harassment, and asking for a cessation of apparent discrimination.
"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... 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... We ask that you inform all of Blizzard's system administrators that they are not to discipline any players for mentioning or discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in a non-insulting fashion... "
The letter noted several legal cases where non-insulting discussion of sexual orientation was found to be
invalid grounds for discrimination in public forums and the workplace. Lamba also makes reference to Blizzard's recent withdrawal of in-game discipline against GLBT guild leader Sara Andrews. Blizzard termed an admin's decision to punish Andrews an "unfortunate interpretation" of current policies.
Lambda, however, also upped the ante by adding they "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 Blizzard's anti-harassment guidelines." Lambda gave Blizzard 30 days to respond, in order "to avoid the need for further action."
Several other outlets have commented on the issue, including an op-ed in the San Fransisco Chronicle and Little Gamers, who offered Sara a free copy of Final Fantasy XI and 3 months of online gameplay.
J: While I applaud Blizzard for retracting their citation, which was (in a weird way) attempting to argue that potential harassment could be due to the actions of the victim, I'm a little concerned about Lambda's 30-day deadline. Offering to help clarify WoW policies is good. Threatening legal action if Blizzard doesn't do it their way? Not so good. Blizzard has done the right thing by so far. I say give them a chance to sort things out.