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A ban on tax-funded gender bias

Although she spent 14 years on Maryland’s highest court, retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker says one of her most memorable decisions came in a sex discrimination case she heard as a Montgomery County circuit judge in 1984.

Retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker

The plaintiff, Barbara Bainum Renschler, challenged a state tax break given to the Burning Tree Club in Bethesda to foster open and recreational spaces. Then, as now, the club had a policy of accepting only male members, and the plaintiff argued that made the tax break unconstitutional.

Raker agreed, holding that using the tax law to give the club a financial benefit “impermissibly discriminates on the basis of gender and violates Maryland’s Equal Rights Amendment.” Her decision was upheld on appeal.

Raker, who has recently taken up golf, said she has no burning desire to break down Burning Tree’s continuing ban on women members.

Still, she said with a laugh, “I should go and say hello.”