California Supreme Court To Hear Lesbian Couple's Case Against Country Club That Denied Them Benefits Because They Are Gay

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Tomorrow, Lambda Legal argues for equal treatment of same-sex couples by California businesses
May 25, 2005

(San Francisco, May 24, 2005) — The California Supreme Court will hear arguments on Thursday, May 26 at 9:00 a.m. in the case of a San Diego lesbian couple whose country club refused to treat them like other committed couples. Lambda Legal, which represents the women, is asking the court to order the country club to treat same-sex couples equally and fairly.


“Gay men and lesbians currently cannot marry under California law,” said Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case. “By adopting policies that give privileges only to married couples, the country club automatically discriminates against lesbian and gay people.”


Who: Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case; B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, plaintiffs in the case. All three will be available for interview and photo ops on the court steps immediately after the arguments.
What: Oral Arguments in Koebke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club
When: Tomorrow, May 26, 2005 at 9:00 a.m.
Where: California Supreme Court, 350 McAllister St, San Francisco, CA


Lambda Legal represents B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, who were denied full benefit of Koebke’s Bernardo Heights Country Club membership because they are not married. 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.


Lambda Legal appealed the case to the California Supreme Court after a state appeals court ruled last year that Koebke and French could sue Bernardo Heights Country Club for treating them worse than unmarried different-sex couples, but did not order the club to provide same-sex couples the benefits given spouses.


Since 1995, Koebke has worked to obtain a change to the membership transfer policy, citing heterosexual couples who were not married but able to extend their country club privileges to their partners. By excluding Koebke and French from its membership transfer policy, Bernardo Heights Country Club is in violation of state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status and sex, Lambda Legal says.


Koebke bought her Bernardo Heights Country Club membership in 1991 for $18,000. Bernardo Heights told Koebke that if she wants to play golf with French they can either buy another membership or they can play together just six times a year and pay an additional $40 and $75 in green fees per game of golf. In addition, French cannot inherit the membership according to club policy because memberships cannot be inherited by a non-spouse.


“Other members have their ‘better half’ recognized and accepted at the club, while Kendall is only my ‘guest,’” Koebke said. “We just want to be treated equally and play golf together. It’s not rocket science.”


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Contact: Lisa Hardaway, Lambda Legal, 212-809-8585, x266


Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

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