May our 501(c)(7) social club for mothers exclude men from membership?
The IRS will generally not grant a 501(c)(7) social club tax-exemption if the governing documents of the club provide for discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, or religion. But gender discrimination is still permissible under the federal tax law.
States generally do not prohibit discrimination in private clubs unless the club is so big and so important that it is considered a public accommodation. The Jaycees of Minnesota, which had nearly 300,000 members at the time and was widely seen as offering opportunities to succeed in business, were required to admit women when they were determined to be a public accommodation under state law in the early 1980s. But that was a very rare case.
The proposed Equality Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives, would outlaw discrimination based on sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) in public accommodations if it ultimately becomes law. But your club does not sound as though it would be considered a public accommodation. Smaller, selective, private groups like yours have traditionally been able to set their own membership criteria. In our draft bylaws for nonprofit membership corporations, we specifically provide that admission may be denied for any reason deemed sufficient by the directors, even if the applicant meets the stated criteria for membership. (See Ready Reference Page: “Bylaws Function as ‘Constitution’ of Nonprofit Corporations”)
I wouldn’t worry about losing that right anytime soon if I were in your position.