Tippecanoe Country Club is to eliminate all practices that limit access to its golf course based on gender.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- A Mahoning County country club is expected to appeal an Ohio Civil Rights Commission order that it change its practices relating to golf course access, saying the issue is whether the state can exert control over a private club.
"The ramification is: Are we going to have a state agency come in and run clubs?" Marshall Buck, a lawyer for Canfield's Tippecanoe Country Club, said Thursday. "This is state intrusion in private affairs."
Buck's comments came after the commission, in a 2-1 vote Thursday, ordered the club to stop "engaging in sexual discrimination" and to eliminate all practices that limit access to its golf course based on gender.
Long fight: The club will appeal the commission's decision to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, Buck said. Lawyers for women who complained several years ago about Tippecanoe's policies were elated with the decision.
"It has been a complete victory for the women," said Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, the lawyer for the four women who complained about club policies in 1996 and '97.
The commission's decision, which largely affirms recommendations by a hearing officer, orders the club to provide all members the same access to golf outings and events regardless of gender, and to offer wives and widows who were members before changes made in 1996 an opportunity to have a share of stock.
The club also has to provide the commission's special enforcement unit an annual report that includes a current membership list along with prospective applicants and lists of applicants who were accepted or rejected.
Who complained: According to commission records, Joann Baker, Tillie Pipoly, MaryJane Karam and Linda Shutrump filed complaints with the commission in '96.
The club had restricted access to its golf course based on gender, and had "Ladies Day" on Tuesdays and "Men's Day" on Thursdays.
The club had also historically restricted women's access to the "Men's Grille."
Despite some changes, the club continued to restrict access to the golf course based on gender.
In commission papers, the club defended its practices, saying that designated playing times for "ladies golf" and "men's golf" don't discriminate because each gender has "the same opportunity to golf, but on separate days."
The club also argued that various golf outings were "open to men and women alike."
"The allegations of discrimination have not been borne out by the evidence," Buck told the commission.
Vote breakdown: Commissioners Charles Winburn and Nirmal K. Sinha voted for the decision. Commissioner Altagracia Ramos voted against it. Commissioner Lawrence Bolden was absent. Commission chairman Aaron Wheeler Sr. abstained to avoid a tie vote, commission officials said.
The commission also dismissed a second complaint by Shutrump that the club unlawfully retaliated against her for filing charges by disproportionately increasing her monthly dues.