28th of December
In the first enforcement of Atlanta's four-year-old human rights ordinance that protects gays and lesbians, Mayor Shirley Franklin has threatened to fine the Druid Hills Country Club up to $90,000 for refusing to extend benefits to the partners of its gay members.
The case has dragged on since January, when Lee Kyser and Randy L. New complained to Atlanta's Human Rights Commission that they were victims of discrimination after the club refused to grant family memberships to their partners.
The club, which charges a $40,000 initiation fee and about $475 in monthly dues, told Kyser and New that their partners were welcome to join, but not at the considerably lower family rates.
In November, Mayor Franklin told an LGBT business group she was reluctant to enforce the ordinance because it probably would not survive a court challenge. After Atlanta LGBT activists pressured her to act, Franklin told club president Kent Smith on December 22 that she is ordering Atlanta's solicitor to fine the club $500 for each day -- up to 180 days -- that it does not comply with the ordinance. That could mean a fine of $90,000 for the club.
Kyser, a 56-year-old radiologist and New, a 49-year-old lawyer, want full spousal benefits (currently available only to legally married couples) for their respective partners. Those benefits include golfing privileges, the right to visit the club whether the member is present or not, and the right to transfer membership rights to a partner if the member dies.
"If we could marry, we would, but that's not the issue," said Kyser. "It's about families, and there are different ways to have families."
In an e-mail to its 1,000 members, Druid Hills' general manager Randy Delaney insisted the club's policies are "nondiscriminatory" and vowed to fight the city.
"A domestic partner is not a spouse," Delaney said. "The club has been consistent for generations in its unwillingness to recognize any form of spousal equivalency, no matter what the gender, sexual orientation or equivalent status may be."
State lawmakers are closely watching the case. If the city wins, it would set a precedent for all businesses to treat equally same-sex couples registered in Atlanta as domestic partners. It would also prompt Republicans to push legislation to negate Atlanta's ordinance.
Georgia has both a Defense of Marriage Act and an amendment to its constitution banning gay marriage, both strongly backed by state Republicans. The LGBT population of Atlanta, where nearly half of the state's residents live, is the fourth largest in the nation.
Tell me what you think I think it's bullshit and
agree that a family is a family regardless of
the sex of the members in the family