Lesbian couple wins round in country club dispute
March 10 2004 1:00 AM ET
A California appeals court ruled on Monday that a case involving a lesbian couple who are suing a San Diego country club to get spousal privileges can return to a state superior court for a possible trial, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It was a partial victory for Birgit Koebke and Kendall French against the Bernardo Heights Country Club. The justices ruled that the plaintiffs' lawyers deserve the right to argue that the club discriminated against the couple by granting spousal privileges not just to married couples but also to unmarried heterosexual couples. The club denies that, according to the Times.
Superior court judge Charles Hayes last year threw out the case before trial. The couple appealed. The appeals court, however, declined to rule that the club's policy of allowing members' spouses to play free at the course violates state law, which bans discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, the newspaper reported.
The plaintiffs had argued that the rule unfairly discriminates against gay and lesbian couples because the law does not permit same-sex marriages. The court disagreed. "The [appeals court] decision basically strengthens the reason that same-sex couples deserve the right to be married," said Jon Davidson, an attorney for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
An attorney for the country club told the Times that the club can easily prove that only married couples are allowed to benefit from the spousal rule. "It seems to me that the fact the court did not charge or modify the law in any way should be considered a victory," said John Shiner, attorney for the country club, where Koebke, a television marketing executive, has been a member since 1986.