Golf Club braces to fight city rule

All I can say is they are standing up for what they believe in. I applaud them.  My company bowed under the pressure!

The leadership of the Druid Hills Golf Club has sent a letter to its 1,100 members arguing that the club should not change its policies to provide full benefits for partners of unmarried members, whether gay or straight.

The board’s letter comes 10 months after a city commission ruled the club was discriminating against homosexuals by not providing full spousal benefits to partners of gay members. The letter comes about a month after Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin warned the club in writing to accept “responsibility to address the unfairness of its current policies” or face sanctions.

A legal battle between the city and the club appears likely.  The Druid Hills club’s board has alerted members that legal fees to defend spousal benefits policy could reach $200,000.

“It depends on how the mayor responds,” said Richard Ling, the club’s membership chairman.

Under the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, the mayor could impose a range of punishments against the club, including the removal of the club’s business or liquor licenses. Such measures would trigger a lawsuit by the club against the city. The club’s board stated in its letter that lawyers’ fees would cost Druid Hills $150,000 to $200,000.

The showdown between the city and the club is the first major test of Atlanta’s ordinance, passed in 2000, which guarantees equal rights for gays in Atlanta public accommodations.

The club contends that the city cannot tell a private group what benefits it must provide to members. The board argues the club only will provide full spousal benefits to people who are legally married under state law. Georgia law forbids gays from marrying.

“State and federal law already provide strong support to the club’s position that it is permissible to distinguish between the privileges extended to married and unmarried persons,” the board states in its eight-page letter.

Lee Kyser, a lesbian club member who filed the complaint against the club with another gay member, said the club’s letter shows Druid Hills is disregarding the mayor’s authority.

“They are thumbing their noses not only at us, but at the mayor as well,” she said.

The mayor’s office had no comment Wednesday about the board’s letter.

The letter does suggest some minor changes in club policy, including allowing “designated partners” of unmarried partners of members to visit parts of the club without members. The proposed changes, however, fall far short of allowing gay members to share their membership rights such as golf course privileges and inheritance. On Jan. 12, the Atlanta Human Relations Commission ruled anything short of those benefits amounted to discrimination against gays.

The unsigned board letter asks for members to send in suggestions to the board by Nov. 12. The board will vote to formalize any changes later next month.

Posted by loni on 10/28 at 09:33 AM in Blogging

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