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Out & proud: NBA referee Violet Palmer comes out publicly as gay

 Referee Violet Palmer watches the action during the game between the Orlando Magic and the Brooklyn Nets at Amway Center on November 3, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

NBA referee Violet Palmer has already made history as the league’s first female referee in 1997. She has taken some criticism because of her gender, but has held her own as a referee. The battles she has had to fight professionally don’t compare to the battles she has fought in her personal life. Now Palmer is merging the two. In an interview with The Associated Press published Thursday, the veteran referee came out as gay and announced she is marrying her partner of 20 years on Friday.

Palmer explained in the interview that she did not try to keep her sexuality hidden from the league and actually came out to her fellow NBA referees in 2007. She said, “This is actually the big formal coming out. We are saying to the world, to everyone, here’s my wife of 20 years. This is the big coming out.”

Although Palmer is not an NBA player, it will still be interesting to see how players treat her now on the court. She has already faced some moronic comments because she is a female officiating a men’s game, but that spotlight may shine a bit brighter. But that is something she is both prepared and ready for. She said her reasoning for not formally coming out sooner, was because she didn’t want her sexuality to define how she was viewed as a referee.

“I always wanted people to just look at my work,” she said. “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 is now focused on marrying celebrity hair stylist Tanya Stine. The ceremony will take place in Los Angeles and will be officiated by “Basketball Wives LA” star Tanya Young Williams, the ex-wife of former NBA All-Star Jayson Williams. Palmer told her fellow referees about Stine when she came out to them.

“The guys that I was really close to knew who she was,” Palmer explained. “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).”

Palmer feels the NBA would’ve still hired her back in 1997 even if they had known she was gay. She didn’t feel opening up about her sexuality was important information in the hiring process. Coming out publicly now has more to do with her upcoming nuptials and less about the publicity it will bring. She wants to start her new life with Stine by living as freely as they can.

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