TRENTON, N.J. — Men-only membership policies at two Princeton University eating clubs violate state anti-discrimination laws, the state Supreme Court said Tuesday as it struck down a century-old tradition.
In a 7-0 ruling, the state's highest court ordered the Ivy Club and Tiger Inn to admit women, rejecting their arguments that they are private institutions exempt from discrimination laws.
The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Sally Frank, who was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Princeton when she filed suit against the Ivy, Tiger and Cottage clubs in 1979. The Cottage Club has since admitted women.
The suit contended the membership policies violated the state's anti-discrimination laws.
Attorneys for the clubs argued that the law applies only to public accommodations and that the clubs are private institutions with no official connection to the Ivy League university.
Frank countered, however, that the clubs, Princeton's rough equivalent to fraternities, play an important function in "networking" between undergraduates and older alumni in the business community.
The court agreed with Frank, saying that "the clubs cannot sever their ties to the university or remove themselves from the jurisdiction" of the state Division on Civil Rights.
"I'm glad the court recognized that this practice was discriminatory and should not be permitted to continue," Frank, now a professor at New York Law School, said.
The Tiger Inn said it would appeal to federal court, but Ivy Club officials were reviewing the decision.
Pressured by the lawsuit, members of both clubs voted earlier this year to admit women, but the vote must pass two years in a row before the policy would take effect.