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‘A most-unsporting activity’: Bill would ban dwarf-tossing contests in Washington state

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – An Eastern Washington lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would end dwarf-tossing contests at bars and strip clubs across the state, an activity he calls "a most-unsporting activity that demeans and exploits those of small stature."

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said SB 5486 would ban dwarf-tossing contests and promotions, as well as any other “recreational activity involving exploitation that endangers the health, safety and welfare of any person with dwarfism.”

The ban applies to establishments that serve liquor and adult-entertainment venues, according to a news release from Padden's office. A hearing on the bill is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 31 before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Padden, ranking Republican member on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said the legislation comes after a constituent contacted him about a dwarf-tossing contest at a strip club in the city of Spokane Valley.

The constituent, a medical student with dwarfism, raised concerns about potential harm to participants.

“There’s nothing funny about dwarf-tossing,” Padden said. “It ridicules and demeans people with dwarfism, and causes others to think of them as objects of public amusement. Even when participants are willing, it exposes them to the possibility of lifetime spinal injury. Dwarf-tossing is an offense to our sensibilities.”

Dwarf-tossing originated in Australia as a pub promotion and spread to America in the late 1980s. People with dwarfism, wearing special padded clothing or Velcro costumes, are thrown onto mattresses or at Velcro-covered targets, according to Padden's office.

Contestants compete to throw the dwarf the farthest. In 1989, Florida enacted a ban on dwarf-tossing at establishments where liquor is served, and New York followed with a similar ban in 1990.

Advocates for “little people” say people with dwarfism are particularly susceptible to spine and neck injuries.

Padden’s legislation applies to contests and promotions involving adults shorter than 4-foot, 10 inches tall.

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