NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

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NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner
Miami Heat's LeBron James pleads his case to official Violet Palmer after James thought he was fouled during an NBA game against the Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Sunday, March 18, 2012. (Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 28: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to referee Violet Palmer #12 during the game against the New Orleans Hornets at the Staples Center on November 28, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 89-76. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2004 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin talks with official Violet Palmer in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. The Clippers won 101-95. (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)
OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with official Violet Palmer during the game against the Golden State Warriors at The Arena in Oakland on February 5, 2003 in Oakland, California. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 103-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2003 NBAE (Photo by: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 30: NBA referee Violet Palmer and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat at Ford Center on January 30, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NBA official Violet Palmer, left, reaches for the ball as Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, right, talks to it, before a foul shot by a Magic teammate, in the first quarter an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009. Oklahoma City won the game 102-74. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
PHOENIX - DECEMBER 5: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns talks with referee Violet Palmer #12 during the game against the Sacramento Kings on December 5, 2006, at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns won 127-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2006 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeremy Lin (7) of the Houston Rockets argues a foul call with referee Violet Palmer (12) in the second half of the Rockets' 120-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Houston. (George Bridges/MCT via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 16: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks talks with referee Violet Palmer during the game against the Orlando Magic on January 16, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Magic defeated the Knicks 102-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 26: Grant Hill #33 of the Orlando Magic argues with NBA official Violet Palmer in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2007 NBA Playoffs against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Arena on April 26, 2007 in Orlando, Florida. The Pistons won 93-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Allen Iverson #1 of the Detroit Pistons talks with referee Violet Palmer #12 during the game against the Sacramento Kings on November 11, 2008 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California. The Pistons won 100-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2008 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) talks to referee Violet Palmer during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Chicago. The Bulls won 93-87. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
SEATTLE - OCTOBER 25: Ray Allen #34 of the Seattle SuperSonics talks with NBA official Violet Palmer during a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings at Key Arena on October 25, 2006 in Seattle, Washington. The Kings won 103-88. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2006 NBAE (Photo by Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 07: NBA referee Violet Palmer #12 talks with Richard Jefferson #24 of the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center on February 7, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 31: Referee Violet Palmer talks to Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 31, 2009 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The Blazers won 125-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Official Violet Palmer talks with the Charlotte Bobcats' Corey Maggette (50) after he was called for a foul during second-half action against the Orlando Magic on Friday, December 30, 2011, at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Orlando won handily, 100-79. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Orlando Magic discusses play with referee Violet Palmer #66 during the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at The Arena in Oakland on November 16, 2002 in Oakland, California. The Warriors defeated the Magic 135-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2002 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 02: Referee Violet Palmer #12 and Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on February 2, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 2: NBA Referee Violet Palmer stands on the court during a game with the New Orleans Pelicans against the Denver Nuggets on April 2, 2014 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 14: NBA official Violet Palmer is seen on the court during the game between the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings at the Toyota Center on April 14, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 07: NBA referee Violet Palmer at American Airlines Center on February 7, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Violet Palmer made her biggest call yet: The NBA referee will marry her partner of 20 years on Friday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Palmer says she came out to her fellow NBA referees in 2007. She has not tried to keep her sexuality a secret from the league since that time.

"This is actually the big formal coming out," Palmer said. "We are saying to the world, to everyone, here's my wife of 20 years. This is the big coming out."

Palmer will marry celebrity hair stylist Tanya Stine in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be officiated by "Basketball Wives LA" star Tanya Young Williams, the ex-wife of former NBA All-Star Jayson Williams.

Palmer broke barriers in 1997 when she became the first female to referee an NBA game. Under scrutiny from her first tipoff, Palmer instantly proved she could withstand the grumbling and ref baiting that comes with forging a career in a men's game. She was no publicity gimmick and has since officiated postseason games and the 2014 All-Star Game over a lengthy and varied career that included stints at the NCAA level and WNBA.

She is now the first openly gay official in the NBA, CBS Sports reported.

Palmer said she had been open about her sexual orientation in the NBA for years. There was never a formal public coming out because she didn't want it to overshadow her work blowing the whistle on every star from Shaq to Kobe to LeBron.

"I always wanted people to just look at my work," she said in a phone interview. "Not look at my personal life, not look at my sexual preference. That doesn't matter. I just wanted people to say, `Wow, she is a pretty damn good referee.'"

Palmer said she didn't initially reveal her sexuality to the NBA while working her way through the ranks, but eventually came out to her fellow referees about dating Stine.

"The guys that I was really close to knew who she was," Palmer said. "But there was half the staff that didn't know. But I can honestly say, as far as the NBA knew, she was my domestic partner. For me to verbally come out to the 60 guys I work with, I didn't do that until 10 years (into my career)."

Despite the additional scrutiny likely heaped on a gay referee, Palmer said she believed she still would have been hired by the NBA in 1997 had she said she was gay. She said she didn't make a conscious effort to keep quiet, she just didn't feel adding the information was necessary.

Palmer, who turned 50 in July, said she knew around her middle school years she was a lesbian. She didn't come out to parents until she was an adult.

"If someone asked me, I would tell them," she said. "But am I going around with the gay flag posted on my forehead? I didn't feel like it was necessary. But I never hid it.

"I think you just get to a certain point in your life where you go, you know what, it doesn't matter anymore. I think that's where I am at that point in my life."

Palmer and Stine always joked they would marry if they celebrated 20 years together. Once gay marriage was legalized in California - and with that Labor Day weekend anniversary date on the horizon - the couple realized it was time to get hitched. They'll marry in front of about 130 guests, including several of Palmer's fellow NBA referees.

She's feeling the kind of nerves she's been able to steel herself from when working in front of players, coaches and 20,000 screaming fans.

"It's a different feeling. This is one of kind of making my life and family complete," Palmer said. "I've been fortunate enough to have a great career and strive for something that's never been done and was able to do it. They're both exciting and it adds another component to my life that probably half the world doesn't even know."

The couple lives in the Los Angeles area and raised Stine's three daughters, from a previous marriage, since the start of their relationship.

Stine has long stood with Palmer, even if it meant staying in the background.

"Most people didn't know, especially in the sporting world, that I even existed," Stine said. "Of course, I went to the games. I went with her. She always had her friends that knew who I was."

Just not the public.

"It was easier to not be (public) so that she could just focus on her job and not have people focus on that aspect of her life," Stine said. "I think most people were just in awe of her doing the job. You don't really think, `Is she at home cooking or does someone cook her dinner? Or, who is she having dinner with?' She was the woman in the NBA and that became the thing."

Palmer soon will walk hand-in-hand with Stine, with a new life ahead, hearing the kind of noise few officials ever do. Cheers.

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