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Group accuses Lions Club of discrimination
A gay rights group has accused the Huntington Lions Club of violating Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws by refusing a couples’ discount to two lesbians who entered the Club’s annual Catfish Derby this May.
Lambda Legal sent a letter dated July 21 to the Lions Clubs International Headquarters in Illinois on behalf of Angela and Tina Corriere-Gooch, who live in Ontario.Lambda Legal is asking the Huntington Lions Club to issue a written apology to the couple, who along with their children and other relatives participated in the fishing tournament, said Tara Borelli, an attorney at Lambda Legal’s Western regional office in Los Angeles who co-wrote the letter with attorney Stefan Johnson.
(Lambda Legal’s headquarters are in New York City.)
“It’s insulting and degrading that the Club treated us like strangers, instead of recognizing our committed relationship,” Tina Corriere-Gooch said.
Mike Raney of Huntington, a Lions Club member and chairman of the catfish derby, said his decision to deny the $1 couples discount to the Corriere-Gooches had nothing to do with their sexual orientation.
“I wasn’t making any statement against lesbians, I’ll tell you that right now,” Raney said Friday morning. “I have nothing against them at all. I was just trying to run a catfish derby.”
Raney said he refused to give the couple the discount because he figured that if he did so he would have to extend the same offer to other pairs of anglers of the same gender, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Raney said he will write an apology letter to the Corriere-Gooches.
The couple contends that when they registered for the tournament on May 22, a Lions Club representative (Raney is not identified by name in the letter) not only required that they pay the full admission price, but also gave the couples the discount to their teenage nieces, who entered the contest with their boyfriends.
“The couple’s primary goal is to make sure other same-sex couples don’t experience the same degrading treatment,” Borelli said. “It’s embarrassing to be treated that way in front of your family.”
According to a press release from Lambda Legal, the Corriere-Gooches, in addition to requesting a written apology, are asking all Oregon Lions Clubs — there are almost 200 — to recognize “their antidiscrimination obligations under Oregon law” and “ensure that clear notice is provided specifically to Huntington, Oregon Lions Clubs members.”
According to Lambda Legal’s letter to the Lions Clubs, Angela Corriere-Gooch sent an e-mail to the Lions Club on June 4 to notify the organization about the May 22 incident.
“The Lions Club has offered no response to date, suggesting that the Lions Club may not fully appreciate how belittling and offensive — and unlawful — this mistreatment was,” the letter reads.
According to the letter, Raney, in denying the couple the discount “said derisively, ‘.... but none of this boy-boy, girl-girl couples crap.’ ”
Raney said he is disappointed that Lambda Legal is accusing the Lions Club, one of the world’s largest service organizations, of discrimination.
“We’re volunteers out there to help people,” he said. “We’re trying to make money for the direct benefit of people. We don’t discriminate.”