A gay attorney claims that three Rotary clubs in Pretoria have discriminated against him because of his sexuality.
The Pretoria News reported that Rhett Gardener was forced to resign from the Rotary Club of Pretoria West (RCPW) after he was on the receiving end of homophobic comments that were circulated via a 2007 e-mail to members of the club.
“As a result of the homophobic attitude of prominent RCPW members I was, after months of extreme awkwardness and tension, forced to resign my club membership,” said Gardener in court papers.
Then, when trying to join the Silverton Rotary club and then the Pretoria Capital Rotary club he was allegedly told by both branches that his membership applications were rejected because some members objected to his sexuality.
Gardener has been a Rotarian since 1996 and said that he has always been open about his sexuality. He added that his social life had revolved around the club and that his health had been affected by the repeated rejection.
He is claiming R5,000 in damages each from the three clubs as well as the two individuals that allegedly made the homophobic comments about him. He has also demanded they issue public apologies.
The clubs and individuals have denied the homophobia claims, insisting that it was Gardener’s “autocratic” behaviour at the Pretoria West club that caused the fall out.
Rotary International has 33,000 clubs worldwide with more than 1.2 million members who volunteer their time to humanitarian causes and “encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations and promoting good will and peace throughout the world”.