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STEARNS v. VFW

December 29, 1972

Jessie STEARNS, Plaintiff,
v.
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS, a corporation chartered by Congress of the United States, Defendant


Waddy, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WADDY

Waddy, District Judge.

 In this suit plaintiff seeks an order of the Court directing the defendant, Veterans of Foreign Wars (hereinafter V.F.W.), a corporation chartered by Congress, to reconsider her application for membership in said organization and enjoining V.F.W. from barring membership to plaintiff on the ground that she is a member of the female sex. Plaintiff also seeks compensatory and exemplary damages, counsel fees and costs. The matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. In addition to the submissions of the parties on said motions, plaintiff's motion is supported by a memorandum of law filed by the Center for Women Policy Studies and the Washington Women's Defense Fund as amicus curiae. Matters outside the pleadings have been presented and considered by the Court. Accordingly defendant's motion is treated herein as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 In an amendment to her complaint plaintiff has alleged that this Court has jurisdiction ". . . under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1343 (civil rights); 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1981 (civil rights); 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 (civil rights); 11 D.C. Code Sec. 521; 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1331; 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2201; and the Constitution and laws of the United States and amendments thereto. The purpose of this suit is to remedy the invidious discrimination against plaintiff by the Veterans of Foreign Wars solely on the grounds of her sex in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States."

 The plaintiff, a woman, is an honorably discharged veteran of the armed forces of the United States who served fourteen months active duty in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines and China during World War II.

 The defendant, V.F.W., is a corporation chartered by Congress, 36 U.S.C. § 111 et seq., whose membership consists of veterans of the armed forces of the United States.

 On February 3, 1971, plaintiff, by letter, inquired concerning membership in V.F.W. and stated her desire to become a member thereof.

 On or about February 8, 1971, plaintiff received a letter in response to her inquiry and stated desire from Julian Dickenson, the Adjutant General of the V.F.W., which stated in part,

 
"At the organizational meeting at which the Veterans of Foreign Wars was established, the founders adopted a Constitution. The Constitution contains the fundamental provisions and principles on which the government of the V.F.W. is based. Eligibility qualifications were fixed at that time. Both the membership Article of the Constitution and its Preamble limit membership to males."

 That letter also stated:

 
"Last year the Commander-in-Chief submitted a proposal to the National Convention to change eligibility requirements so as to admit otherwise qualified females. That proposal was defeated by the delegates."

 Mr. Dickenson's letter was typewritten. However, at the end of it, after his signature, the following handwritten statement appears:

 
"I do promise a (sic) Amendment to National By-Laws eliminating the word Male or Men at our National Conference in Dallas, Texas Aug. 13-22, 1971."

 At the outset the Court is faced with the question of jurisdiction. V.F.W. was incorporated by Act of Congress May 28, 1936 (36 U.S.C. § 111 et seq.). The Charter was amended May ...


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