The club’s current policy excludes women from full membership status. A previous vote was held on June 15, in which members voted 207-171 to allow gender equity, but the initiative failed because a two-thirds majority is required to change the bylaws.
Members of the Westerly (R.I.) Yacht Club will conduct a second vote on whether to change the club’s current policy of excluding women from full membership status, the Pawcatuck, Conn., Westerly Sun reported.
Members of the club were informed of the re-vote, which will occur on July 13 as part of a special meeting, in a letter dated June 29. The club’s board of directors voted unanimously to conduct another vote because of three primary concerns: Some club members feel they were not given adequate time to speak and ask questions during the club’s general meeting on June 15, when the first vote occurred; members have questioned whether proper procedure was followed during that meeting; and “members as well as board of directors feel that our club could be negatively impacted if we do not reconsider allowing women to become full members,” the letter said.
All members wishing to speak will be allowed to do so during the July 13 meeting, “something that clearly did not happen at our last meeting.” Members of the private club voted 207-171 to change the bylaws to allow gender equity, but the initiative failed because, according to club policy, a two-thirds majority is required to change the bylaws, the Sun reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has offered to represent individuals who are denied membership to the club, saying the vote to continue barring women from full membership violates the state’s Civil Rights Act and other state laws, the Sun reported.
Married women are allowed associate membership in the club, but unmarried women are not eligible for membership at all, nor are the daughters of members. Associate members cannot vote on relevant club issues such as bylaw changes or the annual budget, the Sun reported.
A similar vote on whether to allow women to become members failed in 2008. The club has barred women from being full members since it was founded in 1928, the Sun reported.
In addition to pressure from the ACLU of Rhode Island, other organizations have expressed dismay with the club. The Rhode Island Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs announced last week that it has moved its planned August business meeting at the club because of its “refusal to allow women to be full voting members and its discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.” The meeting had been scheduled for August 23, the Sun reported.
Mike Burk, association president, in a press release, said that Robert Ritacco, Westerly Democratic Town Committee chairman, agreed with the association’s stance. Ritacco is a member of the yacht club. Performer David Kane, who had been booked to do a comedy show at the club, canceled after learning of the policy, and a spokesman for L+M Healthcare, which owns The Westerly Hospital, said it would no longer book events at the club until its membership policy was changed, the Sun reported.