DETROIT – In a victory for women’s equality, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the National Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) have reached an agreement that the organization will change their “men-only” policy and allow women to become full and equal members. A similar agreement was also reached with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) regarding gender discrimination charges that were filed against a chapter of the FOE in 2002.
“Men-only membership policies that relegate women to second-class status are simply illegal,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “This agreement gives women all over Michigan the equal membership rights that they are entitled to.”
The ACLU represented the Flat Rock Chapter of the Eagles, which welcomes women as full members. The National FOE policy, however, states that only men may become full members with voting rights, while women who want to participate in Eagles activities are relegated to joining the “Ladies’ Auxiliary.” When the National FOE threatened to revoke Flat Rock’s charter because it treated women as equals, the local chapter and three of its members sued in Wayne County Circuit Court claiming that the national policy violates Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Michigan Civil Rights Law.
Dana Cupp, the male president of the Flat Rock Eagles since 1990, said this has been a battle they’ve been fighting for a long time and he vowed to stay president until the issue was resolved. “Women do much of the work in this club and they shouldn’t have second-class citizenship,” said Cupp. “This should send a message to all fraternal organizations that they need to come into the 21st century and stop discriminating.”
The Flat Rock chapter is one of 132 local chapters with approximately 60,000 members in Michigan that engage in a range of charitable and social activities, including activities that are open to the public. More than half of the national FOE’s 725,000 members are in the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Ironically, the National FOE allowed women as full members from 1995 to 1998 before reverting back to its male-only policy.
“This is a ground-breaking settlement because it allows Eagles chapters throughout the state to open its doors to women, not just the Flat Rock Chapter” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Margaret Costello. “Under the agreement, the National Eagles must send a letter to all chapters and ladies auxiliaries in Michigan informing them that chapters are now free to offer women full membership and privileges.”
FOE or Ladies’ Auxiliary members who have questions about admitting women to Michigan chapters may contact ACLU of Michigan legal director Michael J. Steinberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the Consent Judgment, go to: www.aclumich.org/pdf/briefs/eaglesconsentdecree.pdf
To read the complaint, go to: www.aclumich.org/pdf/briefs/eaglescomplaint.pdf
To read the press release from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to: http://www.michigan.gov/mdcr