Appeals Court To Hear Lesbian Couples Case Against Country Club That Denied Them Benefits Because They Are Gay

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Today, Lambda Legal argues for equal treatment for all members at country clubs
February 9, 2004

(San Diego, February 9, 2004) - A state appeals court will hear arguments today 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, Senior Counsel in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office. “By adopting policies that only give privileges to married couples, the country club automatically discriminates against lesbian and gay people.”

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 and forces them to pay additional greens fees whenever French seeks to play golf as Koebke’s “guest.”

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 in today’s argument.

“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. Koebke bought her Bernardo Heights Country Club membership in 1991 for $18,000. Under the current membership restrictions for hosting guests, Koebke is limited to bringing her life partner, French, to the club only six times a year. In addition to limiting the number of times French can play with her life partner, the country club’s policy forces the couple to pay greens fees between $50 and $70 per round of golf, where married spouses play for free, and does not allow the membership to 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.”

What: Oral Arguments in Koebke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club
When: Today, February 9; 1:30 p.m.
Where: California Court of Appeal, 4th District, 750 “B” Street, Suite 500, San Diego

### Contact: Fred Shank, 212/809-8585 ext. 267


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