Dwarf-tossing ban draws support, breadth of concerns at hearing

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A proposed statewide ban on risky dwarf events - including dwarf tossing and potentially also wrestling - drew passionate support at a public hearing.

At least five people with dwarfism showed up to the Thursday hearing, with several telling the committee that "dwarf tossing" events — sometimes held as promotions at bars and strip clubs — contribute to a culture of mockery and bullying directed toward those with the condition, and their overall marginalization in society.

But one representative for an entertainment company questioned the breadth of the bill, and advocates acknowledged separately that some activities banned by the bill, including potentially wrestling, might be less objectionable.

The ban, proposed by Spokane Valley Republican Mike Padden, would prohibit any physically hazardous activity involving a person with dwarfism in an adult venue or bar.

Padden said he sponsored the bill after a constituent contacted him about a dwarf-tossing contest at a strip club in the city of Spokane Valley.

“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.

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

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