Say goodbye to separate-but-unequal at the Phoenix Country Club

By Sarah Fenske

Here's news that's sure to strike fear in the hearts of misogynist golfers everywhere.

The state's chief law enforcement officer has ruled that you can't ban women from the dining room of your country club, even if you give them a smaller, crappier dining room to use instead. That's sex discrimination, says the Arizona Attorney General's Civil Rights Division.

Can't you just hear all the investment bankers and legal beagles rending their golf togs and shrieking, "SAY IT AIN'T SO?!"

Here's the backstory. Last July, we broke the news of an oh-so-fascinating fight heating up at the Phoenix Country Club: Longtime members were demanding a civil rights investigation into the club's separate-but-equal dining rooms. While both men and women were welcome in the main formal-dining area, the casual grills were sex-segregated. And, as a pair of longtime members complained to AG Terry Goddard last February, the Men's Grill had a bunch of TVs, a patio, and a bar area. The women's area wasn't nearly as nice.

This morning, the Republic broke the news that Goddard's office has issued a ruling against the club.

Andrea Esquer, Goddard's spokeswoman, says she can't confirm or deny anything to do with the complaint — or even confirm that there ever was a complaint. That's the law for you — civil rights complaints are sealed until or unless the AG files something in court. That hasn't happened yet. (Since the lawyer for the country-clubbers who filed the complaint, David Bodney, is also the lawyer for the Republic, we're not surprised the ruling leaked out.)

A spokeswoman for the Phoenix Country Club tells New Times that the club "strongly disagrees with the conclusion of the investigator." She also says the club intends to "take steps to protect its status as a private club." Public accommodations are subject to civil rights law, but because the country club hosts events for people who aren't members, it falls into a gray area.

The Republic notes that the AG's ruling recommends that the parties work this thing out through "conciliation." Considering everything that's happened so far, we're not holding our breath on that one.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske