Our judges are all romance readers. Within that group are RWI chapter members and members of other RWA chapters. We recruit judges nationwide and even worldwide (for e-books) and our only requirement is that they are regular romance readers. They tell us which categories and what “heat” level they prefer to read, so our entrants’ books get into the hands of people who might give them the most favorable rating. Our final round judges are chosen for the diversity of their romance reading interests and enjoyment, sense of fair comparison across all categories, and knowledge of the romance genre.[source]
So, let’s be clear – they will raise mountains to ensure that every and all kinds of romance are accepted and find a receptive audience. No matter how steamy, how explicit, what genre or category they fit in – no matter how out there, they will find a judge to look upon it favorably.
Except any romance with a same-sex couple. No, that’s not allowed and not accepted.
This is something we’ve seen before in speculative fiction. We can expect people to deal with elves and magic and dwarfs, we can expect them to deal with vampires and werewolves and witches, we can expect them to deal with space ships and aliens and phasers with 12078 settings (when all you use is the “kill” option) but gods forbid you include 2 people of the same gender who dare to love each other! That is just going far too far!
In fact, nothing I say could beat the excellent words of Courtney Milan:
Apparently, it’s possible for the MTM contest to get entrants’ books in the hands of diverse judges from multiple RWA chapters who are comfortable with all types of romances and heat levels. You can write M/F erotica. You can write M/M/F. You can write about aliens from another planet who have tentacles, or barbed sexual organs. You can write degrading rapes. None of those things are barred from entry in the More than Magic contest, and if you write them, they’ll try to find judges who are predisposed to like your books. But they won’t do that if you write same sex romance–even if it’s a sweet romance with no sexual contact whatsoever. No–when it comes to same sex romance, the fact that they might be able to identify judges in their chapter or outside of it who would be willing to read same sex entries and judge them fairly somehow becomes irrelevant. In that instance, the majority gets to say that those entries don’t belong.[source]
And why is this discrimination here? Because they’re UNCOMFORTABLE with same-sex romance
Really? You pride yourself on being able to find judges who will look favorably on any romance, no matter how out there or how explicit but you couldn’t find one who could endure the presence of those icky gays no matter how sanitized? Really? What does this say about your membership? And can we say again how gross it is that straight discomfort means that gay people have to be removed and hidden? Because the bigots are uncomfortable our lives get erased from the page? Why, again, does GBLT existence take a second seat to prejudiced straight folk’s discomfort?
The Romance Writers of America has released a statement:
RWA members are served by 145 local and special interest chapters, and those chapters are individually incorporated and governed. So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer. Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA’s board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters. [source]
So they want to make it clear they don’t want to meddle with their local chapters. Really? This is the weak excuse? Because it’s several kinds of pathetic. Welcome to the 21st century and get yourself a non-discrimination policy for crying out loud! Why isn’t THAT included under the RWA bylaws? You are accepting these people as part of your organization, minimum behavioral standards should really be part of the membership process – otherwise your name gets affiliated with, say, homophobic bigots. This is basic PR, this is basic common sense. Are you really going to give your name and endorsement to people without any controls of their behavior? Do you value your name, your brand, that poorly?