Judge Orders Fraternal Club in Connecticut to Admit Women

A judge has ordered a 101-year old fraternal German club in Mystic to start admitting women.

The order follows a ruling by the state Appellate Court last year in favor of Sam Corcoran, a bed and breakfast owner from North Stonington who had been denied membership in the German Social Society Frohsinn, Inc.

A Superior Court judge had originally upheld the club's men-only policy. But the appeals court ruled that the judge had improperly relied on federal cases instead of a state standard that does not exclude private clubs from laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations.

The court sent the case back to Judge Seymour Hendel, who applied the state standard and, in an order dated Feb. 21, said the club must treat applications for membership from men and women equally. He also awarded Corcoran $250 in damages.

"Clubs like these provide vital networking opportunities for small business owners like Sam Corcoran," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, which brought the case on Corcoran's behalf. "It was unfair that she be denied these opportunities simply because she is a woman."

Richard Haviland, the club's attorney, said the club will decide within the next two weeks whether to pursue further appeals. Even if club members accept the ruling, it does mean Corcoran will become a member, he said.

"There is no explicit order that they admit Miss Corcoran, only that if she submits an application in the correct form they have to treat her, as a woman, under the same criteria they treat men," he said.