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State Investigating Marching Club That Barred Dad

February 14, 1991

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) _ The state Human Rights Commission on Wednesday began investigating a sexual discrimination complaint filed by a man who was barred from joining a mothers- only group that supports his daughters’ baton club.

″I don’t want to become a mother; I want to become a member,″ Kerry Rath said outside the commission’s closed-door, fact-finding session.

Rath filed the complaint after the Township Twirlettes Mothers Club insisted he could not join the group because he is not a mother.

″It’s a mothers’ club. That’s the name of it,″ said Twirlettes secretary Debbie Linden.

Rath said he wanted to participate because his two daughters were members and ″I believe that it’s one of our parental responsibilities.″

State examiner Wanda Burwell, who heard four hours of testimony, said her attempts to reach a settlement failed. She said the commission will decide later whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a lawsuit.

The mothers’ club, which has about 20 members, decides which parades the 80 boys and girls will march in and raises money for them. Some mothers march with their children, who twirl batons to a drumbeat.

Rath tried to join the club in July, a month after his wife, Jane, who had been a member, suffered a heart attack. Mrs. Rath said her heart attack came after an argument over a scheduling dispute during a club meeting, and she did not renew her membership.

Rath, a 44-year-old mechanic from East Huntingdon Township, said he wanted to join mostly to help his 7-year-old daughter, Kylie, who has cerebral palsy. He has been allowed to march with his daughter in parades, but wants more say in the club’s operation.

The Raths have a second daughter in the Twirlettes, Kristan, 16.

Twirlettes President Patricia Skero said she believes Rath wants to join so he can take over the club. ″He feels the officers that are in there now have been there for too long and it’s time we had new officers.″

Rath said he does not want to control the club but does think it needs new leadership. ″You do need to have fresh people, fresh ideas,″ he said.

Brenda Barnhart, a member of the Twirlettes for seven years and a past treasurer, said she thinks Rath should be allowed to join. She said the club members are ″resisters.″

″They do not like any changes,″ she said.

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