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Mariners apologize to LGBTQ community, plan to train staff

caption: Seattle residents Mary McHale and Sara Hinton were told their embrace was against family-friendly policies at Safeco Field
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Seattle residents Mary McHale and Sara Hinton were told their embrace was against family-friendly policies at Safeco Field
Mary McHale

The Seattle Mariners organization is apologizing to the LGBTQ community. That's after two incidents in which couples say they were humiliated by ballpark staff - one of them at the Mariners first ever Pride night.

Major League Baseball’s own Ambassador of Inclusion, Billy Bean, threw out the first pitch on Pride night at Safeco Field, Aug 19. Bean's job is to provide guidance in support of the LGBTQ community.

Seattle resident Mary McHale was at the game, too, with their significant other. Having a grandfather who loves the Mariners, McHale associates the team with warm, happy feelings. That changed as the couple was waiting for a ride outside the ballpark.

McHale: "My sweetheart looked at me and said what a great time we were having, and we kissed. And just standing there, not doing anything obscene or anything that would make any of the other folks around us uncomfortable, and that's when a Safeco Field employee came out and said, 'ladies, I'm gonna have to ask you to stop.'"

McHale says it was humiliating for multiple reasons. It was Pride night, for one, and neither McHale nor their partner go by female pronouns.

Related: Seattle City Council vote on LGBTQ therapy brings reporter to tears

McHale was told they'd be asked to leave if they continued to kiss.

McHale: "And he said that our behavior was against a family-friendly policy, and that point I started to get really angry."

Just two weeks earlier, a lesbian couple had a similar interaction with the ballpark staff.

Mariners leadership have since apologized to McHale, saying they should have never been approached. Mariners spokesperson Rebecca Hale says the security guard was completely out of line and has been disciplined.

She says Mariners games are a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community.

Hale: "I know that the actions of a few of our staff over the last few weeks have made folks in the community question that, and for that we are sincerely sorry. And we have fans that are LGBTQ and we want them to know that they are most welcome here at Safeco Field."

Hale says it was past time that they had a Pride night at the ballpark.

Mary McHale and Sara Hinton say the response from the Mariners has been swift and positive.

McHale: “But more than that, it's an opportunity to educate this employee and their supervisor and whoever else trains them on how to be more sensitive when they're enforcing their so-called family friendly policy."

And that's what the Mariners say their next step is: training staff this September on making the ballpark welcome to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hale says the Mariners organization will also work with Seattle's LGBT business chamber (GSBA) on improving the Safeco Field Code of Conduct.

The Mariners wrote in a message to McHale and Hinton, "training will start during the month of September before the season is over and will carry forward into the 2017 season and beyond," and that GSBA will help strategize a concrete plan to "improve training and education for all 1,300 of our Day of Game Staff Team Members."

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