Mom Says She's Banned from Refereeing Son's Basketball Games Because She's Lesbian: 'We Were Blindsided'

Jesika Mckinney tells PEOPLE officials from a church with a sports program their kids joined came to her home and said her wife Ayanna couldn't volunteer as a referee "because of our sexuality"

Mom Says She Was Banned from Refereeing Son’s Basketball Games Because She’s Lesbian: 'We Were Blindsided'
Photo: Ayanna and Jesika Mckinney

A couple in Kentucky say they've experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

Ayanna and Jesika Mckinney tell PEOPLE they signed up their children for basketball and cheerleading activities last year through a program run by the Florence Baptist Temple near their home in Burlington.

The couple, who have six kids ranging in age from 5 to 15, say they first heard about the church's Upward Bound Sports program through their school district.

But after Ayanna, 29, volunteered to officiate one of her kid's basketball games in mid-January, the couple says two church officials came to their home and told them she could no longer volunteer as a referee due to her sexuality.

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

Jesika says it was "frustrating to hear" the church's decision, especially since becoming a referee is a volunteer position that the program is allegedly "begging people" to take.

"We had been participating in this program as an openly gay married couple since September when we enrolled them. What changed? What happened?" she says. "We were completely blindsided by it."

"To go even further, 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 continues. "It's upsetting because, I mean, it's 2023. I know people still have different beliefs and views, but I mean, come on."

PEOPLE reached out to Florence Baptist Temple Church leadership for comment.

Per ABC affiliate WCPO, the church's website links to the "Baptist Bible Fellowship International Articles of Faith," which states that homosexuality is a "sinful perversion."

Ayanna and Jesika's children are now enrolled in a sports program offered directly through Boone County Schools.

Jesika says that have not had any further communication from the church, outside of receiving their money back for fees and team photos.

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In a statement to WCPO, the Boone County School District says they will ensure all flyers are vetted through the "lens of inclusion" in the future after hearing about the incident.

"We've received a lot of love and a lot of support," Jesika says of the response from her community. "A lot of the parents were very upset when they heard about what happened."

"That just gave us that boost of confidence that, okay, well there are people who still feel like us in this world who care, who want to see the same change that we want to see, and that's all we want," she adds.

"At the end of the day, we want them to know it's not okay. We want them to know there are people who feel that way and we want to prevent other people from going through what we went through."

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