481 U. S. 537
May 4, 1987
The Rotary Club had a strict male only policy, but one chapter in California began admitting women, arguing that they were required to by a state anti-discrimination law. The Rotary Club attempted to revoke that chapter’s membership, leading to a lawsuit in which the California courts held that the Club had to allow chapters to admit women within the state. The Rotary Club argued that this burdened its freedom of association.
Unanimously, the Court ruled that California’s anti-discrimination law could be employed against the Rotary Club. Blackmun and O’Connor did not participate, and Scalia concurred in judgment without opinion. Powell wrote for the Court, and said that Rotary Clubs were especially public and especially diverse organizations. Furthermore, he argued that none of the Rotary Club’s principal stated goals would be compromised by the admission of women. This, coupled with a state’s compelling interest in ending sex discrimination meant that the Club’s freedom of association was not unreasonably burdened.
This decision was horrible on every level. The government has no business attempting to regulate the membership of private clubs. Even worse is the government deciding for itself whether a club’s purposes and goals really require excluding a certain group. But most troubling of all is the Court’s stark denial of what everyone really knows: a certain undefinable, but very real atmosphere is irrevocably lost whenever a single gender organization is forced to open up to the opposite gender. Sororities and fraternities, for example, wouldn’t be the same if they were gender integrated, and nearly the whole world can understand this instinctively. Whether the Court admitted it or not, this decision did forever destroy the Rotary zeitgeist.
This ruling is yet another example of the Supreme Court’s rebellion against God’s design of gender. God intended for men and women to be different; gender distinctions are a gift, not a curse. America will be much better off when it stops trying to use its laws to deny and suppress the blatantly obvious.