Koebke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club

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Status: Closed
Outcome:
Victory
Court:
California Supreme Court
Issues: Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Case in California arguing that businesses that extend benefits to married couples must also extend them on an equal basis to registered domestic partners

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Summary

The way they tell the story, B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French just wanted to play golf together at their country club, just as other married spouses could. They’d been together more than a decade and believed they were entitled to the same benefits and privileges that other couples at the club enjoyed. But Bernardo Heights Country Club told them that, because they were an unmarried same-sex couple, French could only play as Koebke’s guest and had to pay up to $70 per round to do so — and they could only play together at the club six times a year. Additionally, unlike those who were married, French was not permitted to inherit Koebke’s interest in the club. Lambda Legal appealed the case first to the California Court of Appeal and then to the California Supreme Court. We won a groundbreaking victory at the California supreme court requiring businesses that extend benefits to married couples to extend them on an equal basis to registered domestic partners.

Context

Enacted in 1959, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act guarantees all Californians equal treatment by businesses. California’s Domestic Partnership Act of 2005 requires equal treatment of registered domestic partners and spouses. Businesses therefore violate the Unruh Act if they discriminate against registered domestic partners by denying them benefits that are extended to married couples.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This is an enormous victory for registered domestic partners in California. Not only does it apply to athletic club memberships but, whenever domestic partners apply for things like mortgages, loans or insurance policies, the decision requires that they be provided the same advantageous treatment married couples receive.