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Florida Ban on Dwarf Tossing Must Be Upheld, Announces LPA, Inc.

>Florida Ban on Dwarf Tossing Must Be Upheld, Announces LPA, Inc.

Dwarf-Tossing is a Dangerous, Demoralizing Activity That Poses Specific Hazards to Persons with Dwarfism

TAMPA, FL – Dec. 10, 2001 — Dwarf-tossing is a dangerous, exploitative activity reminiscent of the sideshow circus days in that the person with dwarfism is objectified and dehumanized in the name of "entertainment," according to officials with LPA, Inc., the national support organization for individuals with dwarfism and their families.

Dwarf-tossing is literally that-a contest to see how far one can "toss" a person with dwarfism. The person with dwarfism is equipped with a harness around his torso and is spun around and eventually thrown by another person onto mattresses placed on the ground. The person who throws the dwarf the greatest distance wins the contest.

This activity is exceedingly dangerous to the person with dwarfism, stated Robert Van Etten, director of the local LPA organization in Florida. "Because of the orthopedic and neurological complications associated with most forms of dwarfism, especially related to the spinal column, vigorous physical activities and contact sports (especially dwarf-tossing) place a person with dwarfism at high risk of back and neck injury that could result in paralysis," Van Etten said.

It should be noted that the person with dwarfism is not a contestant in the activity, but little more than a tool for achieving a particular aim, added Cara Egan, vice president of public relations for LPA. "Aside from the physical dangers, dwarf-tossing is a demoralizing activity that treats the person with dwarfism as a mere object," Egan stated.

Increased Prevalence of Dwarf Tossing Puts All Dwarfs At Risk

Legalized dwarf-tossing sends the message that it is acceptable to lift and toss any person with dwarfism.

Dwarf children particularly would be at risk, explained Nancy Mayeux, director of public relations for LPA's District 4 and the mother of two dwarf daughters. "Many parents report the common problem of peers wanting to lift their children," Mayeux stated. "Should dwarf-tossing become more prevalent, it is likely that picking up and "tossing" a person with dwarfism of any age-but particularly children-would be acceptable in almost any venue-at school or in the mall."

LPA and other supporters of this legislation argue that the danger posed to the individual-and to all persons with dwarfism-override the individual's right to participate.


In the late 1980s, the disturbing trend known as dwarf-tossing was emerging in college campus bars in various spots across the country, but most predominantly in the State of Florida.

Under the leadership of Mayeux, LPA organized a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the dangers of dwarf-tossing among state legislators and the media, including Phil Donahue, Geraldo Rivera, Dear Abby and Ann Landers, and others.

CS/HB 1191 was originally introduced in the State Senate by Senator Stuart in April 1989, where it was taken up by the Committee on Regulated Industries. The bill, focusing on the state's broad power in regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages, prohibits any establishment licensed to sell alcoholic beverages from promoting or participating in dwarf-tossing.

CS/HB 1191 prohibiting the exploitation of persons with dwarfism was signed by Governor George Martinez on June 28, 1989.

A Justified Classification

The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the legislation on the grounds that the legislation was discriminatory in preventing persons with disabilities (i.e., persons with dwarfism) from participation in a particular activity. (In general, disability rights legislation has been written, which state and federal courts have upheld, to protect persons with disabilities from being classified in any way as to deny them the right of full participation in society.)

However, the United States Supreme Court has held that in reviewing a court challenge, a court may apply a scrutiny standard that would require the classification of a group of individuals, as long as such classification has a substantial relationship to the subject being regulated. Given the relationship between the specific health risks associated with dwarfism and dwarf tossing, classifying person with dwarfism in this way is viewed by LPA and other supporters of this legislation as justified.

The legislation makes specific reference to the dangers that dwarf-tossing poses to the health, safety, and welfare of the person with dwarfism. This is an important stipulation to counter any state constitutional challenge that legislation prohibiting dwarfs from participating in this type of activity discriminates against persons with dwarfism.

For more information, contact:

Cara Egan, 301/385-2445
Nancy Mayeux, 727/347-1450

Little People of America, Inc. (LPA, Inc.)
PO Box 745
Lubbock, TX 79408
(888) LPA-2001

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