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In the Crossfire

Should Augusta National open the door to women?

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The exclusively male Augusta National Golf Club continues to take the heat for not allowing women as members. The highly guarded membership list was leaked to the media in recent weeks. Will Augusta National crack under pressure and invite a few women to join the club?

Attorney Gloria Allred and sports attorney Debbie Schlussel joined "Crossfire" host Robert Novak to square off on the issue.

NOVAK: Gloria Allred, my wife belongs to a women's-only health club, no men permitted. She really likes it because you don't have these big bruisers pushing aside the women to get to the exercise machines.

(Augusta National doesn't) want women around. Shouldn't they have that right? And shouldn't the old geezers at The Masters have the right to have their own club without women cluttering the place up?

ALLRED: Well, actually apparently Debbie was unaware that women's health clubs are a civil rights issue. In fact, I filed a lawsuit some years ago on behalf of a man against a club called Women Only that was a health club because they wouldn't...

SCHLUSSEL: What a great service to America, Gloria.

ALLRED: May I speak uninterrupted? I didn't interrupt you; I'd appreciate it.

Because they wouldn't allow a man to be a member, and we were successful in settling that case and allowing men to be members of the club.

But the point about Augusta National is this: There are a lot of men who are deducting their dues as a business expense at Augusta National and/or their corporations are paying for that as a business expense.

Why? Because they're doing business there. Well, women should not be excluded as members of the club because they also should have the right to be able to network and do business there, and this is interfering with that important opportunity.

NOVAK: Gloria, have you ever looked at the guest membership list of Augusta? I mean, this is an old men's society. I'd be one of the young guys here. And, I mean their days of doing business are long gone. This is a social club and they don't want women with their high-pitched voices bothering their fun.

ALLRED: Well, you know, people have accused me of a lot of things; having a high-pitched voice is not one of them.

But my point is this: It's going to be very interesting, because a lot of these businessmen who are members of this discriminatory club which excludes women, shuts them out, bars them simply because they're female, are also the heads of large corporations which have equal employment opportunity policies.

And I'd like to see these men questioned under oath in a deposition in a sex-discrimination case as to how they can pay dues to a club that discriminates, and at the same time administer a large corporation, which purports to have equal employment opportunities.

SCHLUSSEL: Well Gloria, as a person who seems to constantly complain about a woman's right to her own body, these people have a right to their own bodies and their own private lives. And they can do what they want with their own money; this is a private club.

But the fact is that women have been invited to be guests there. They played over 1,000 rounds of golf there last year. And many of these corporations that have memberships there allow women to have some of their corporate memberships.

So the fact is, women do play there. Women do do business there. And that's simply not correct to say that they've been barred from that. There is no gate that says, "Women are not allowed to attend." That doesn't happen. It's simply not the case.

ALLRED: Well first of all, the idea that somehow it's OK if we're outside looking in; that we're there as guests, but can't be members of a club and that we should be satisfied with that small crumb, is ridiculous.

Women are entitled to equal rights. A golf club, a country club was sued in California. The Supreme Court held that it was a business accommodation, not truly a private club, even though they called themselves a private club, and that they had to open it up to women. Many of these clubs (are) not private clubs. A former city councilperson in L.A. called them palaces of power.

This is where business is done, and it's time to open up the doors to our daughters.

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