In a long-standing case involving the lesbian partner of a San Diego golf club member, Lambda Legal on Monday filed a brief with the California supreme court arguing that same-sex couples in the state should have full and equal benefits at country clubs and other businesses. The case refers to a San Diego country club, which has refused to recognize the couple for the purposes of providing a spousal membership. "Same-sex couples currently cannot marry under California law," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel in Lambda's Western regional office. "By adopting policies that only give privileges to married couples, the country club automatically discriminates against its lesbian and gay members. We're asking the California supreme court to require country clubs and similar businesses to treat all couples equally and stop charging lesbian and gay couples more for the same services."
Lambda is representing B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, domestic partners who were denied full benefit of Koebke's Bernardo Heights Country Club membership because they cannot marry. Bernardo Heights Country Club's membership policy allows a spouse to be included in membership. Although Koebke and French have been domestic partners since 1993, Bernardo Heights Country Club refuses to recognize the couple's relationship, limits how frequently they can use the course together, and forces them to pay additional greens fees whenever French seeks to play golf as Koebke's "guest."
Earlier this year a California appeals court ruled that Koebke and French could sue Bernardo Heights Country Club for treating them worse than some different-sex couples, but the court did not order the club to provide same-sex couples the same benefits given heterosexual couples. Since 1995 Koebke has worked to obtain a change to the membership transfer policy, citing couples of different sexes who were not married but were able to obtain club privileges for their partners. By denying Koebke and French the same membership benefits, Lambda argues, Bernardo Heights Country Club is in violation of state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status, and sex. "Unfortunately, there is a history of discrimination at country clubs against African-Americans, Jewish people, and other minorities. Now, with this lawsuit, we hope to take the next step in ending discrimination in a place where business contacts are made and careers are developed," Davidson said.