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Martha Burk

Martha Burk

Posted: May 10, 2010 03:53 PM

One More Black Eye for Arizona

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We know Arizona has been in the news lately for it's "hunt-'em-down-and-make-'em-show-their-papers" law aimed at brown people, most of them also poor. Discrimination at its rawest.

Members of the genteel country club set are no doubt holding their noses and trying to ignore the stink the state's action has created around the country. Meanwhile, discrimination of another stripe continues on those hallowed golf greens. Both the Tucson Country Club and the Phoenix Country Club, sites of U.S. Open qualifying rounds this week and next, continue to discriminate against women in tee times and use of club facilities, some 60% of which are reserved for men only.

Yeah, I know they can't actually deport women, so many would say there's no comparison with the racial profiling that's bound to occur with the new anti-immigrant law. But women have been openly gender-profiled, and publicly declared second class citizens by both clubs. And by continuing to discriminate against women and telling the world "we do it because we can," as a former Tucson Country Club president said recently, they send a message that sex discrimination doesn't matter.

So what? It's only a game of golf, after all.

Well, not exactly. The PCC and TCC boards are populated by some of Arizona's most prominent citizens and business leaders, including Henry Boice, President of the Northern Trust bank of Tucson and the president-elect of Tucson Country Club, and Thomas Zlaket, the former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.

These guys would never have the gall to make such a statement if the subject was race. Nobody would brag about allowing non-white men to join their club and then restrict their activities - and make them eat and drink in separate facilities -- based on skin color.

Not so with gender.

The Arizona Attorney General's office has been through this before with Phoenix. The club agreed last year to stop discriminating and mend their ways, but gee, when nobody was looking they backslid got sued again in March. And the AG is now investigating two more complaints, this time against Tucson.

The United States Golf Association , co-sponsor of the qualifying tourneys, is not blameless here either. In direct violation of their own rules, they chose the Tuscon and Phoenix Country Clubs as venues, even though both clubs proudly and publicly discriminate. USGA Commissioner David Fay is passing the buck to protect the boys. Despite the clear prohibition of sanctioning events at clubs that discriminate, the USGA is "await[ing] the outcome of the Attorney General's investigation with interest." God forbid they should speak out in favor of fair treatment.

When powerful people send the message that sex discrimination is no big deal, even at a golf club, it's a short leap to the idea that a little pay discrimination is ok too, not to mention a pat on the butt at work. After all, it's just the girls. They shouldn't be so sensitive about these things.

Politics is also in the mix. The Attorney General, Terry Goddard, on whose desk the complaints have landed, is running for governor. His opponent, Tucson Country Club member John Munger, has painted those who don't like the club's policies as disgruntled harpies.

Those disgruntled harpies -- Arizona women, just happen to be the majority of voters in the state. Let's hope they will remember Munger's disdain in November.