Alan Lessik and John Manzon-Santos who say they are skating partners but not involved romantically filed the suit against the ice rink and general manager Monte Tiedemann. They claim Tiedemann engaged in "unlawful and discriminatory business practices by denying (them) their right as two men to skate as a pair."
"We were publicly humiliated by having this happen to us, and we feel absolutely clear that Monte has a problem with gay skaters," said Lessik, a San Francisco resident.
But rink management claims that is not the case, and the skaters were asked not to hold hands because of safety concerns.
"There is no homophobia going on at Berkeley Iceland or East Bay Iceland. It's even a little bit insulting because we've had people of various sexual orientations who have worked for us, coached for us and skated for us," said Jay Westcott, general manager of East Bay Iceland, which is Berkeley Iceland's parent company.
Wescott said the pair is welcome at the rink but must not skate holding hands if there are safety concerns.
Lessik, 52, and Manzon-Santos, 41, want an apology and for Tiedemann to undergo sensitivity training.
"If this could happen in Berkeley, what's going to happen in (a less liberal place)? There is homophobia in this sport, and if it's coming out in a place like Berkeley, young kids who are in skating are going to feel they can't be out (as gay people)," Lessik said.
The skaters met in November 2002 at the Gay Games in Sydney, Australia and were practicing at Berkeley Iceland in preparation for the Gay Games VII.
They said they skate holding hands at rinks in San Francisco and Redwood City without problems.
The latest incident occurred on the morning of Feb. 4 when the men attended a "freestyle" skating session at the South Berkeley ice rink. During freestyle sessions, skaters are allowed to do spins, jumps and practice their programs.
There are private lessons going on and people are skating in groups and in many directions.
The men say they were practicing a routine and skating hand-in-hand with at least 20 other skaters when Tiedemann walked across the ice in street shoes and pointed a finger in Lessik's face, yelling "I told you guys before, I can't have you skating here. No skating together this is a freestyle (skate)," according to the suit.
Tiedemann continued, "There are no pairs here, I don't allow it," according to the suit. There weren't any other people holding hands at the time, Lessik said.
Lessik responded, "This is discrimination against gay people. You have done this to us before. We will take this up with the city of Berkeley," according to the suit.
Tiedemann replied "Go ahead I'd love to take this on," according to the suit.
The pair got a refund and left the rink.
In April 2005, the men were asked not to hold hands during a public session even though there were male-female couples skating together, according to the suit.
The two sides will meet Tuesday to try and mediate the dispute, said attorney Amy Todd, who is representing the pair on behalf of the National Center for Lesbian Rights' Homophobia in Sports Project.