Private clubs that bar gays from membership would get extra legal protection under a bill approved Thursday by the Georgia senate. The plan, which already passed in the house, is aimed at a fight in Atlanta between the city government and Druid Hills Golf Club. The club does not extend the same benefits to the partners of gay members that it does to the spouses of married members. Two members of the club appealed to the city, and Mayor Shirley Franklin said the club should be fined $500 a day
for the policy, although that fine has not been collected. The golf club is private, but its facility is regularly used for public events such as weddings and parties. The club, in turn, is suing the city.
The case caught the attention of some Republican legislators, who drew up the bill saying such private clubs can't be fined by governments. "This is not state government interfering in local government," said Republican senator John Wiles, the plan's senate sponsor. "This is state government simply enforcing its policies and enforcing the constitution of the state of Georgia."
Some Democrats argued that the bill is simply an effort by Republicans to score political points by bashing gays. "In 2005 the idea we would use division to appeal to the worst in us--use division to achieve and maintain political power--seems worse than what happened in a prior generation," said Democratic senator Vincent Fort. The plan passed 37-11. It now goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature.