Washington State Bill Looks to Finally Ban Dwarf Tossing at Bars and Strip Clubs: 'There is Nothing Funny About Dwarf-Tossing'

mike padden
Dwarf-tossing contests could be banned in Washington state under a bill sponsored by State Senator Mike Padden. Facebook/Mike Padden

Dwarf-tossing at bars and strip clubs could become illegal in the state of Washington under a new bill sponsored by Senator Mike Padden.

Under Senate Bill 5486, any game or contest that involves the "exploitation that endangers the health, safety and welfare" of a person with dwarfism in adult entertainment venues or places that serve alcohol would be banned.

Dwarf-tossing involves people throwing a person with dwarfism, who are usually paid, onto a mattress or Velcro wall, with the aim to see who can throw them the furthest.

In a statement, Padden explained that he sought for a change in the law after being contacted by one of his constituents, who become aware of a dwarf-tossing contest at a strip club in Spokane last October.

The constituent, a medical student with dwarfism, cited concerns about the potential harm those being used in the contest could suffer, citing how people with dwarfism are more susceptible to spine and neck injuries.

"There's nothing funny about dwarf-tossing," Padden said. "It ridicules and demeans people with dwarfism and causes others to think of them as objects of public amusement. Even when participants are willing, it exposes them to the possibility of lifetime spinal injury. Dwarf-tossing is an offense to our sensibilities."

The game is believed to have originated in Australia and later spread to the U.S. in the late 1980s. Contests have since been banned in France, with Florida and New York also banning dwarf-tossing in places that serve liquor in 1989 and 1990 respectively.

After the practice was banned in France, Manuel Wackenheim sought to have the ruling overturned, claiming it was discriminatory and deprived him of a job.

In a 2002 statement, the United Nations rights committee dismissed the appeal, ruling the ban on dwarf-tossing was "not abusive but necessary to protect public order, including considerations of human dignity."

Michelle Kraus, advocacy director for Little People of America, also believes dwarf-tossing should be banned to help little people find more positive roles in society.

"We are not characters. We are real people with real jobs, with real families, with real concerns," Kraus told The Washington Post.

"It's not about taking away people's agency or people's possibilities for supporting themselves but really expanding what is available and not to kind of perpetuate the stereotype of this caricature."

Padden's bill to end a "most-unsporting activity that demeans and exploits those of small stature" will apply to contests involving adults shorter than four feet 10 inches.

A hearing on the bill is set for the morning of January 31 before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.