Church Bars Lesbian Mom from Refereeing Her Son's Basketball Games

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday February 16, 2023

Ayanna and Jesika Mckinney
Ayanna and Jesika Mckinney  (Source:Courtesy of Ayanna and Jesika Mckinney)

A married couple in Burlington, Kentucky described how they were "blindsided" when church leaders told them that their son's lesbian mom could no longer volunteer as a referee at his basketball games.

The church in question, Florence Baptist Temple, subscribes to the idea that being LGBTQ+ is a "sinful perversion," People Magazine noted in its coverage of the story.

Even so, Ayanna Mckinney, 29, had been refereeing for the church's sports program as a volunteer for months when suddenly, the couple told People, she was no longer welcome in that role.

The abrupt change of heart came about after Ayanna "volunteered to officiate one of her kid's basketball games in mid-January," the article detailed.

"We had the members who identified themselves as leaders come to our house that Friday night to tell my wife that she couldn't referee the games anymore," Ayanna's wife, Jesika, told People Mag.

"We asked why? Did we do something wrong? We were confused," Jeskia, 31, continued. "But they said no, that it was because of our sexuality, and it's in their church laws."

Jesika went on to add, "We had been participating in this program as an openly gay married couple since September when we enrolled them," meaning the couple's six children, the youngest of whom is 5 and the eldest 15.

"What changed? What happened?" Jesika lamented. "We were completely blindsided by it."

Adding more pain was how "they thought it was okay to sit in my house in front of my family, my children, and tell them that there was something wrong with our sexuality and that you have a law against us being able to participate in the church," Jesika went on to say.

The church's conduct toward them was hurtful, but the couple have moved on — literally.

"Ayanna and Jesika's children are now enrolled in a sports program offered directly through Boone County Schools," People Mag said. Meanwhile, the community rallied around the family when word got out about how they had been treated simply because the married couple are LGBTQ+.

"We've received a lot of love and a lot of support," Jesika told the magazine, including the school district promising to review promotional literature for such programs through a "lens of inclusion" after having disseminated leaflets from the church about the church's sports program in the first place.

"A lot of the parents were very upset when they heard about what happened," Jesika related, before saying that she and her wife "want them [the church] to know it's not okay" to treat families like theirs the way they did.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.