The boys were no doubt raising a toast or two at the Bull Pen lounge at the Marine Drive Golf Club this week. The B.C. Court of Appeal, no less, had ruled unanimously that the men could play their cards and tell their off-colour jokes without having to share their tables with members of the opposite sex.
The lounge's no-women-allowed policy was not, in the court's view, a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code.
The men's victory, however, comes at a huge cost to a golf club, long considered one of the finest in the country. Its reputation has really taken a beating in this whole affair.
The beginnings of this sordid story go back a few years, when a group of female members at the club -- a fiery, point-to-prove lawyer among them -- decided to take on the men.
They wanted access to the Bull Pen, which is located in a prime area of the clubhouse. The fact the women had their own lounge, albeit one not as nice as the men's and in a less desirable part of the clubhouse, was beside the point.
It wasn't long before holy hell broke loose.
Upon hearing what the women had in mind, the men of the Bull Pen started seeing red. Well, some of them, at least. In reaction to the negative publicity the story generated, the club opened the lounge to women for three months in the summer of 2004.
That's when things really got ugly.
According to documents that would be filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, women attempting to use the lounge were harassed and intimidated. Some male members put up a sign in the lounge that said: "Cow Pen." One day, when a group of women walked out onto the outdoor terrace, a male member wedged a knife in the lounge door so the women could not get back inside.
Another time, several male members held their noses as some women entered. On another occasion, when two female members walked through the lounge, a male member commented out loud to his buddies: "Did anyone else smell that?"
In 2005, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled the golf course was violating the Human Rights Code by discriminating against women. Not happy with the decision, the club took the matter to the B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled against the 36 female complainants. And on Thursday, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the Supreme Court ruling, saying that the club is private and therefore the relationship between the club and its users is also private.
As I say, this story has always been about a small group of younger, mostly professional women (and fairly new members) persuading some others to join them in this fight. But as the Appeal Court judges said in their unanimous judgment, the women knew upon joining the club there were rules restricting access to certain areas of the clubhouse based on gender. And they joined, accepting the benefits of membership and, in the court's view, accepting the restrictions.
Personally, I don't have a huge problem with the club's position regarding its men-only lounge. Just as I don't have a problem with women-only health clubs. I would, however, say men-only lounges speak to a bygone era and will eventually die out. To me the bigger question is: Why would the women of Marine Drive want to socialize in a lounge that allows Neanderthals anyway?
Not that all the men who frequent the Bull Pen lounge dress like Fred Flintstone. But there are more than a few -- and not just older members as has been suggested -- and their behaviour in this whole matter has sullied the reputation of a once-terrific golf club and a lot of fine men and women who belong to it.
While the golf club was spending tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees trying to keep women out of one of its lounges, it should have been investigating the antics of some of its male members. And then kicking them out of the club.
Rose-Mary Basham, lawyer for the women in this case, has said she expects her clients will appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Personally, I don't think they'll have any more luck there. They may have to wait until a female president takes over at the club.
Meantime, the men-only lounge has now become famous countrywide for the disturbingly infantile actions of some of its members. In fact, it might more aptly be called the Play Pen.