Bloomberg News

Dwarfs Better Off Tossed Than Jobless, Florida Republican Says

October 07, 2011

Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Jobless dwarfs should have the option of being flung around a barroom for cash rather than standing in the unemployment line, according to one Florida state lawmaker.

Representative Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican, has introduced a bill to undo a ban on “dwarf-tossing” as part of what he says is his mission to repeal overreaching and outdated laws from Florida’s books. Though the dwarf-tossing measure is not a “jobs bill,” he said, it may put a few people to work in a state where unemployment is 1.6 percentage points above the national average.

Dwarf-tossing, a competition in which bar patrons see how far they can throw little people in protective gear, was banned in Florida in 1989 after opponents complained that it was dangerous and dehumanizing.

While Workman, a mortgage broker, agrees that the practice is “offensive” and “stupid,” he also thinks the ban keeps willing projectiles from gainful employment.

“If this is a job they want and people would pay to see it or participate in it, why in the world would we prohibit it?” Workman said in a telephone interview from Tallahassee. “In my world view, we have the freedom and liberty to do these kinds of things.”

Amy Graham, a spokeswoman for Republican Governor Rick Scott, said in an e-mail that his office hadn’t reviewed the legislation “so it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment.”

House Speaker Dean Cannon generally “supports efforts to remove laws from the books that may no longer be necessary or relevant, however the committee will have to decide if that is the case with this law,” Katie Betta, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Support the Short

Dwarfism is a medical or genetic condition that results in an adult height of no more than about 4 feet 10 inches, according to the Little People of America, a national nonprofit organization based in Tustin, California, that supports people of short stature. Workman’s bill would repeal provisions that prohibit holders of liquor licenses “from allowing the exploitation of persons with dwarfism.”

Carolyn Fiddler, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said that the bill highlights Republicans’ lack of understanding of what drives employment growth.

“It’s a really telling symptom of the larger theme that they push, which is that government is the greatest obstacle to job creation,” she said in a telephone interview from Washington. “This shows how absurd that notion is.”

Question of Humanity

Almost 840,000 fewer Floridians are working than when employment in the state peaked in 2007. The unemployment rate in August was 10.7 percent, while the national rate was 9.1 percent.

Legislators concerned about out-of-work dwarfs should focus on employment discrimination, said Leah Smith, a spokeswoman for the Little People of America.

“There are many, many risks involved” with dwarf tossing, she said in an interview from Lubbock, Texas, adding that dwarfs are susceptible to spine problems. And, she said, “There’s a basic issue of humanity. What other population group would you toss?”

--Editors: Stephen Merelman, Pete Young

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To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Baribeau in Miami at sbaribeau@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.


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