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Row over ballroom dance rule change
Ballroom dancing organisers have defended a proposal which could prevent same sex dance partners from competing against mixed sex couples.
The British Dance Council (BDC) is considering a rule change which would define a dance partnership as being "one man and one lady...unless otherwise stated".
Critics have claimed the proposal could see same-sex dancer partners banned from ballroom competitions because organisers or competitors are not "comfortable" with their participation.
But BDC president Bryan Allen insisted the proposal followed complaints that mixed sex dance partners were "unfairly disadvantaged" in competitions against all-male couples.
Mr Allen said: "There had been complaints from a number of people who felt they were unfairly disadvantaged by the participation of all male dance couples who are physically stronger.
"We're looking to regulate the situation as there is nothing in the rules at the moment.
"There is no proposal to stop same sex couples dancing. We don't discriminate on colour, race, sexuality or anything else.
"My gut feeling is it would probably help to strengthen same sex competitions. I wish we had more of them."
The proposal, which will be considered at the BDC's change of rules meeting on July 21, reads: "This council recognises a partnership to be one man and one lady in all adult amateur and professional competitions and championships unless otherwise stated."
Heather Devine, who competes with her female dance partner Chrisi Lyons, said: "I am really distressed that the BDC is even considering banning us.
"We've put in a huge amount of effort. To exclude us will mean that we can't dance in mainstream competitions any more. This seems so unfair."
Ms Devine, who is European same-sex senior women's ballroom champion with her partner Ms Lyons, has written to Mr Allen to voice her concerns.
She added: "Contrary to claims by some supporters of the new rule, male same-sex dance duos do not have an advantage.
"Ballroom dancing is not like tennis or football. Power and strength are not the key to winning.
"Poise, musicality, expression. timing, floorcraft and presentation are the main judging criteria. This means that two men do not have an advantage over a mixed-sex couple."
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "We are concerned this proposed ban may be motivated by some judges, competitors and spectators not being comfortable with the participation of same-sex dance partners."
It is understood the BDC rules committee will meet on July 20 to decide whether or not to put forward the proposals to the governing body's board of directors.
If the proposal goes ahead, the board of directors meet on July 21 to decide whether or not to adopt the rule change.