Court Refuses to Let Princeton Club Exclude Women
JAMES H. RUBIN
Jan. 22, 1991
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today refused to let the only remaining all-male eating club at Princeton University continue excluding women as members.
The court, without comment, let stand a ruling that Tiger Inn must admit women members this year.
The case began in 1979 when Sally Frank, then a Princeton junior, filed a complaint with New Jersey civil rights officials against Princeton and three eating clubs. Such clubs are similar to fraternities or sororities at other colleges and universities.
Frank, now a 31-year-old assistant law professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, accused Tiger Inn and Cottage and Ivy Clubs of violating a New Jersey anti-discrimination law.
Cottage Club admitted women in 1986 when it settled Frank's suit. Ivy Club admitted 15 women in October.
Tiger Inn's members voted in October to continue banning women. The club said in the appeal acted on today that forcing it to admit women violates members' constitutional right of members to freedom of association.
The club's lawyers said the case could affect 7,000 fraternities and sororities that have some 9 million members.
In other action today, the court:
- Left intact a ruling state and local governments said could force them, if ever applied nationwide, to pay billions of dollars in overtime to public employees.
The court, without comment, rejected an appeal by a California county ordered to pay overtime to its fire battalion chiefs.
- Refused to apply retroactively a 1987 civil rights law that gives broader protection to those alleging illegal bias by federal aid recipients.
The court, over two dissenting votes, let stand a ruling in a New Mexico case that said the law does not apply to bias cases pending when the law was enacted.
- Left intact a ruling that bars states from regulating the shipment of hazardous substances by railroads.
The court, without comment, rejected arguments by Ohio officials that such state regulation is not pre-empted by federal laws governing rail safety.
- Ordered reconsideration of the death sentence given to a Florida murderer, saying the state's highest court failed to provide ''individualized treatment'' in reviewing the sentence.
By a 5-4 vote, the court ordered further study of Robert Parker's death sentence for a 1982 murder in Duval County, Fla.
The decision, yielding the first 5-4 vote of the court's current term, did not appear to be far-ranging. It may not even affect any other death row inmate in Florida.
In the Tiger Inn case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last July that such all-male clubs violate a state law that prohibits discrimination based on gender at public accommodations. The state court also upheld a $5,000 damages award to Frank.
''The undisputed facts establish that the clubs and Princeton have an interdependent relationship that deprives the clubs of private status and makes them subject to'' the anti-bias law, the state court said.
''It would be disingenuous for the clubs to assert that they could ever exist apart from Princeton University,'' the state court said, and there is no dispute the Ivy League university is a public accommodation.
''Tiger Inn is now and always has been operationally, financially and physically independent of Princeton University in every way,'' the appeal said.
Frank recently recounted how she was doused with beer at one club during an event for those hoping to join. Then, she said, some members began chanting, ''Let's throw Sally Frank in the fountains.''
She said she also received obscene and threatening phone calls. ''They denied me membership,'' she said. ''But more importantly I felt that they were having a negative effect on campus by increasing sexism at the university.''
The high court has given states broad power to ban all-male clubs. In three cases since 1974, the justices have ordered the Jaycees, Rotary Clubs and New York social clubs to admit women.
The case is Tiger Inn vs. Frank, A-451.