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  • Friday, November 20, 1998

    Skater Brian Orser loses fight to suppress ex-boyfriend's suit

    By DAVID CRARY -- Associated Press
     TORONTO -- Brian Orser, a pro figure skater and two-time Olympic silver medalist, has lost a legal battle to prevent the public disclosure of a palimony suit filed by a former boyfriend.
     In an affidavit made public by a judge's order this week, Orser expressed fear his career would be ruined by the revelation that he was homosexual.
     "Other skaters, both Canadian and American, guard their gayness closely because of the likely impact of public disclosure on their careers," Orser said in the affidavit.
     Ontario Court Judge Susan Lang on Tuesday rejected Orser's request to ban public access to details of the lawsuit, in which Toronto banker Craig Leask is seeking monthly $5,000 support payments, some of Orser's property and access to his vacation house.
     Lang said she understood Orser's desire for privacy, but wrote in her judgment, "One anticipates that in today's society such a disclosure would not attract any public stigma."
     Orser, 36, initially declined comment on the lawsuit, telling reporters only that the developments were upsetting to him, his family and his friends.
     But on Thursday, Orser issued a statement saying the situation might not be as bleak as he thought.
     "In hindsight, I may have overreacted in trying to protect my privacy," he said. "Over the last two days, I have received a tremendous outpouring of public support which has been a great comfort to me."
     Leask, 35, filed his suit in January, about six months after the couple's relationship ended. He claims Orser promised to support him in a relationship that would be "a lasting, monogamous and balanced partnership."
     In his suit, Leask says Orser cheated on him, evicted him from their home and killed the couple's two dogs. However, Leask's lawyer said this week that some of the claims were inaccurate.
     Orser denies all allegations and says some of his cash was taken by Leask.
     Orser's lawyer, Bruce Clark, said the skater earns about $300,000 a year, mostly from skating events.
     In his affidavit, Orser said it was "highly likely that if these allegations were made public, I would not be invited to return to a number of major ice shows."
     Orser received moral support Thursday from skating stars Elvis Stojko and Katarina Witt, who were in Toronto promoting a skating tour.
     "Brian is one of my dearest friends," Witt said. "I admire him, and it should never be an issue if he's gay or not."
     Stojko also said he would stand by Orser.
     "We all choose and we're all individuals. If that's the way he is that's fine," Stojko said.
     The fate of Leask's lawsuit could be affected by case now before Canada's Supreme Court.
     The court is deciding whether Ontario should change its alimony laws to include gays and lesbians. Two lower courts in the province have ruled that preventing same-sex couples from claiming alimony violates their constitutional right to equality.


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