OLYMPIA — A proposed bill would ban the exploitation of dwarfs at commercial establishments in Washington state.
Senate Bill 5486 is co-sponsored by a group of three bipartisan senators and introduced by Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley).
“To me, it comes down to basic common decency,” Padden said.
Dwarfism can be caused by heredity, endocrine dysfunction, renal deficiency or skeletal disease that results in disproportionately short stature and an adult height of less than 4 feet, 10 inches, the bill states.
The bill aims to protect against forms of recreational activity that could endanger the health, safety and welfare of any person with dwarfism. In the U.S., individuals with dwarfism often prefer to be called dwarfs or little people.
Peter Reckendorf is a resident of Everett and testified on behalf of his own personal experiences and fears as a little person. Reckendorf is a physical assault survivor and currently in recovery from an emergency back surgery.
“I am so scared to walk the streets of Washington state, unknowing what’s around the corner,” he said. Reckendorf constantly lives in fear of being randomly picked up without his consent.
Common recreational events include dwarf tossing and bowling. While these spectator activities require the voluntary consent of dwarfs, Florida and New York have banned these forms of entertainment at commercial establishments that sell alcoholic beverages, according to SB 5486.
This bill would prohibit any holder of a retail liquor license from holding contests or promotions that exploit and endanger people with dwarfism. Violations may result in the loss or suspension of a liquor or business license and fines up to $1,000 per event.
Deana Harris, president of the Puget Sound chapter of Little People of America is the custodial grandmother of a 12-year-old boy with dwarfism. She aims to spread awareness for a group of people who are marginalized by society.
Imagine removing “dwarf” and inserting another marginalized group in the recreational events, she said at the hearing. While holding back tears, she asked, “What if there was gay tossing, Muslim tossing, black tossing or Jew tossing?”
“To truly achieve their civil liberties and equality, little people must not be seen as mere objects for sport,” Harris said. “This sort of objectification can only result in physical and emotional harm.”
Her grandson, Ayden Harris, is a seventh grade student in Woodinville. The 12-year-old plays little league baseball, flag football and basketball.
“In dwarf tossing, the little person is just a piece of athletic equipment, just like a ball,” he said. “When I play sports, I am the athlete, not the equipment. I am human.”