Sports Law Blog
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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
 

Gay Marriage and Sports: The Atlanta-area Druid Hills Golf Club has found itself in a battle between state law, city ordinances, antidiscrimination laws and the right of a private club to freely set its own policies. The country club has retained a lawyer after a city panel found that it discriminated by not extending spousal benefits to the partners of its homosexual members. No lawsuit has been filed as of yet and the city has until mid-February to decide whether to conduct further investigation. The club released this statement last week.

This case showcases the difficulties created as the country sorts out its stance on gay marriage. Georgia state law forbids homosexual marriage, but the city of Atlanta allows gays to register with the city as "partners." In addition, the city has an ordinance which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The club argues that it accepts homosexual members but, following state law, does not recognize them as "married" to their partners. At least one editorial has called upon the club to give their homosexual members spousal benefits, stating that there would be no real harm to the club in allowing in a few more spouses.

However, editorials such as these miss the point. If changes are to be enacted, individuals should petition their state government, not a private club. The club has a legal right not to extend such benefits and those opposed to the policy have every right to cancel their membership, go to another club, or protest against Druid Hills. However, making such end runs around the law shortchanges the important issue of gay marriage. If Druid Hills were to change its policy, this would not affect the other 99.9% of homosexual Georgians that are not a member. Real changes must be enacted on a state or national level. If they are not, then what is left is a hodge-podge of conflicting legislation that leaves individuals and organizations wondering exactly what the law is.