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NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

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.

Join the discussion

1000|Characters 1000  Characters
danielamselem July 31 2014 at 8:57 PM

Why is this news? who cares?

Flag Reply +72 rate up
7 replies
dhendr3229 July 31 2014 at 9:04 PM

Hey lets shove some more glorification of homosexuality into our lives.

Flag Reply +67 rate up
8 replies
rcachipper July 31 2014 at 9:07 PM

Why is this news? Why is the actions of a small segment of our society being shoved down our throats?

Flag Reply +60 rate up
9 replies
dubleott July 31 2014 at 9:05 PM

Is this news? Are we to suffer every gay marriage announcement that pops up on the computer screen? WGAS?

Flag Reply +60 rate up
Pat July 31 2014 at 9:08 PM

Nowadays who cares whether you're GAY ...

Except for Liberals who want to STUFF IT DOWN OUR THROATS as if to challenge anyone to say something negative about them!!!

Just like the Obama supporters who keep calling everyone HATERS or RACISTS if we dare say ANYTHING against their Golden Boy!!!

Flag Reply +41 rate up
8 replies
ickster01 July 31 2014 at 9:54 PM

I am shocked...shocked ...that a female basketball player...now ref ....is a dike. Hold it...I'd be surprised if she was straight! Does Nancy Lieberman know? Who gives a rats ass!!!!

Flag Reply +32 rate up
1 reply
Nigel ickster01 July 31 2014 at 10:39 PM

That would be dyke! Just saying

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
mark and sheri Nigel August 01 2014 at 2:11 AM

Regional spelling difference.

Flag 0 rate up
trbgd July 31 2014 at 9:07 PM

I seriously doubt this was BIG NEWS to anyone that knows him/her

Flag Reply +28 rate up
1 reply
TR by ML Neal... trbgd August 03 2014 at 3:25 AM

trbgd...that's the point. Did you attend school?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
musln408 July 31 2014 at 9:06 PM

SIN!

Flag Reply +16 rate up
4 replies
heeg23 July 31 2014 at 9:08 PM

And I thought my beard was thick

Flag Reply +16 rate up
3 replies
boyle1034 July 31 2014 at 8:59 PM

Must we have female refs?That poor cop who got punch by spider man in Times Square had a female partner . She was some help.

Flag Reply +16 rate up
5 replies
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