Georgia’s State Legislature is currently meeting. Recently, Atlanta sought to punish an area golf club because it denied spousal privileges to gays whose partners are members. Now the General Assembly is taking up the issue:
State House Republicans will introduce a bill Monday that would stop Atlanta from punishing the Druid Hills Golf Club because the eastside club won’t grant spousal benefits to partners of gay members.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), said his measure would forbid any government in Georgia from sanctioning “any private social organization” if the organization’s rules abide by the Georgia Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
“I want to make it crystal clear,” Ehrhart said. “If you comply with state law, you can’t be punished.”
This issue is set to pit Republicans against Democrats in the State House. Here in Georgia, the Republicans barely control the State Senate and have the Governor’s office. The Democrats are firmly in place in the State House and the Majority Whip, Nan Grogan Orrock (D-Atlanta) “said the bill sends the wrong message.
‘[Atlanta] is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and I think it’s because of our diversity and our progressive stance,” she said. “We’ve had leadership that unites people, not divides people. . . . The message this bill sends is that Ehrhart and his crowd want to turn the clock back.'”
The issue involves a clash between private organizations and government regulation of private organizations.
The dispute between the board of the Druid Hills Golf Club and two gay members became a political hot potato Jan. 12, when the Atlanta’s Human Relations Commission, a panel tasked with reviewing discrimination complaints, advised the city that the club was in violation of the city’s ordinance. The commission heard a complaint jointly filed last July by Lee Kyser, a lesbian, and Randy New, a gay man, against the 1,100-member club.
The club board argued that it willingly accepts gay members, but only extends spousal benefits to legally married couples. The commission found that the club violated the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance by not treating the partners of Kyser and New as spouses.
The commission’s six-page report on the case, released by the mayor’s office Friday, suggests the club should create a system that accords gay couples the same benefits as married couples.
I think there is a danger that Atlanta’s laws may clash with the right of private organizations to do as they see fit. I also think that if cities and states keep pushing people and organizations to change rules to the benefit of homosexuals through the pressue of homosexual lobbying efforts, those cities and states risk creating a backlash – particularly in the South.