Lowcountry yacht club keeps rule in place banning women from being members

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 2:58 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - The James Island Yacht Club was founded in 1898. But more than 100 years later, the by-laws regarding its male-only policy have yet to change.

According to a statement from the James Island Yacht Club, the female spouses of the members have become more “involved and are an integral part of the Club,” but they are not considered members.

“The James Island Yacht Club is a family-focused social organization run by its membership as outlined by the Club by-laws. Potential new members of our Club must be sponsored by a current resident member. Our Club was founded in 1898 as a male-only organization and over time females have become more and more involved and are an integral part of the Club. Females of the Club have full access and use of all JIYC facilities and participation in all social activities.”

Females are only offered access to the Club facilities and able to participate in social activities if their male significant other is a member.

In 2020, the members of the club voted to potentially change the club by-laws to make women full members. But when the men voted, it did not pass.

“While this motion was thoroughly debated it did not garner the necessary % of votes required to change the Club by-laws. The by-laws govern our Club and changing them is the only way to change our membership practices. Proposals to change the Club by-laws are brought up from time to time, often taking multiple attempts to garner sufficient membership support for implementation.”

The Chair for the City of Charleston Commission on Women Jennet Robinson Alterman calls this discrimination.

“It’s discrimination, plain and simply,” Robinson Alterman said. “And although it is legal discrimination because it’s a private club and they’re pretty much allowed to do what they want to, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

The CEO of South Carolina Women and Leadership Barbara Rackes says she is surprised to learn there are still clubs in South Carolina with these types of laws.

“What do you think about your daughters,” Rackes asked. “Are you going to tell her that in order for her to be a member she has to be married? Do you really want you daughter to be precluded from joining the club you like so much?”

As the by-laws of the club currently stand, no women will be able to vote on this matter until the men-only members vote to include them.

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