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Eagles ordered to admit women

Women interested in joining Washington Eagles Lodges as full members can do so now, thanks to a fight taken to the state's Supreme Court by Eagles clubs in Tenino and South Whidbey.

On Thursday, the court ruled by a 7-2 margin that the Eagles, a national fraternal organization, is not a "distinctly private club" and must allow women to join.

The decision affirmed a 1999 ruling by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas Strophy, who also said the Eagles must admit women as full members. That ruling was later overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

The Washington Supreme Court heard the case after Northwest Womens Law Center attorney Rosemary Daszkiewitz filed to have the lower court's decision reconsidered.

The victory was Daszkiewitz's second before the high court this year. Using case law established by the U.S. Supreme Court in similar suits against Rotary International and the Jaycees, she said the win is solid and will be difficult to challenge.

"I'd say that there's almost no chance the (U.S.) Supreme Court will want to hear this case," she said.

Opposing Daszkiewitz and the Tenino and South Whidbey clubs was the state's Grand Aerie. Annie Carson, one of the women members of the South Whidbey Eagles Club, said the Grand Aerie's desire to keep the Eagles men-only was complicated by its decision to allow women admitted to the club between 1995 and 1998 to remain members.

Carson said she was not surprised by the verdict and was happy the 4-year-old case has finally been settled. Now, she said, all Eagles clubs in the state must immediately begin accepting women as members, as long as they meet the club's other membership criteria.

Prior to last week's decision, most Eagles lodges only accepted women as members of club auxiliaries.

In addition to ruling in favor of women joining the Eagles as members, the state Supreme Court awarded attorney's fees to pay Daszkiewitz. The attorney said the national Eagles Aerie will have to pay out approximately $190,000 to the Womens Law Center and to her private firm to cover legal bills.

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