Court Grants Gays Equality at California Clubs

Monday, August 01, 2005

The California Supreme Court ruled today that country clubs must offer gay members who register as domestic partners the same discounts given to married ones -- a decision many believe could extend to other businesses such as insurance companies and mortgage lenders. From the Associated Press:

The decision by the California Supreme Court dealt with a policy at the Bernardo Heights Country Club in San Diego that allowed only the children, grandchildren and spouses of married members to golf for free.

Birgit Koebke, 48, an avid golfer who pays about $500 a month in membership fees, challenged the policy after being told that her longtime lesbian partner could only play as a guest six times a year while paying up to $70 per round.
The court ruled that the policy constitutes "impermissible marital status discrimination."

While businesses might once have claimed a legitimate business interest for maintaining different policies for married couples and gay members who cannot legally wed, such distinctions are no longer justified under a sweeping domestic partner law that took effect in California on Jan. 1, the court said.
At first glance the ruling doesn't make sense because gay marriage is not legal in California, therefore homosexuals should not be entitled to the same privileges that straight couples are at private country clubs. However, California has a "domestic partner" law that treats gay couples like married ones. With that law in effect I can't argue with the ruling, even though I am cautious whenever a court strips power away from private companies to regulate their own businesses.

It was good when country clubs/restaurants were desegregated, and required to comply with sensible safety laws, but now you can't smoke in them, certain employees can only work certain hours, liquor can only be sold at certain times, it's nearly impossible to discriminate against applicants (even when there's good reason to), and customers can sue when the coffee is too hot.