- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Human Rights Commission now can investigate private country clubs to determine whether they deny membership based on race, a right granted via a state Supreme Court ruling that examined the clubs’ eligibility for tax deductions.

Last week, the state high court settled a decade-long legal fight over the agency’s effort to investigate three clubs.

In a 6-1 ruling, the panel said the General Assembly empowered the commission to investigate both public and private clubs 13 years ago when it revised the tax code. At that time, legislators decided members of clubs that discriminate cannot deduct their dues as business expenses.

“This court has now clarified [the commission’s] authority to progress toward fulfillment of that public policy,” Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said in writing for the majority. Justice J. William Graves cast the dissenting vote.

Chief Justice Lambert stressed that the ruling spoke to the eligibility for tax deductions. The case, he said, wasn’t about the rights of clubs or their members. Private clubs have the statutory right in Kentucky “to discriminate in affording the benefits of membership without fear of legal liability.”

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