A Long Island golf club has been told that it may not discriminate against its applicants—even if the purpose is to prevent discrimination.
It’s illegal for a country club to discriminate against its applicants based on their religion – even if the club’s reason is to make its membership as diverse as possible, a state appellate court has ruled.
For more than 40 years, the Mill River Club in Upper Brookville has proudly advertised that it requires its membership to be evenly balanced between Christians and Jews, the court decision said. But one of its more than 300 members, Joseph Pezza, 61, of Locust Valley, complained about that policy to the State Division of Human Rights in 2003. He said the policy meant that when the religious balance swung too far in one direction, people were – at least temporarily – being denied admission because of their faith.
Last week the state Appellate Division agreed with an earlier decision by the Division of Human Rights, saying that no club that is used by the public can discriminate for any reason.
The court said the club is subject to the state human rights law because, even though it’s membership-based, it is not “distinctly private.” Nonmembers can take tennis and golf lessons there, shop in the pro shop and pay to hold events there.
While the decision is in a state appellate court, and thus has no bearing on the nation as a whole, there are a couple of interesting notions here. First, the judges have decided that a private club is a “public accommodation,” based on the fact that it opens its doors to outsiders for such things as lessons events. Under that definition, every “private” club I know is a public accommodation. Even ultra-elite clubs such as Oakland Hills and Winged Foot open their doors to outside events—if only for charity or tournaments.
Under that definition, Augusta National also could be considered a “public accommodation.” That would please the feminists to no end. It’s a good thing teh decision applies only to New York.
Just as interesting is the concept that you can’t discriminate, even if the purpose is to create diversity. I’m no lawyer, but I thought that was the whole underpinning of affirmative action programs: discriminate against some previously “favored” group in order to achieve a “proper” racial balance.