ENCINITAS — Former members of a men’s rights activist group, known across Southern California for filing sexual discrimination lawsuits over ladies’ night specials and similar gender-based promotions, have sued a local golf instructor after allegedly being denied entry into her women’s golf clinic in Encinitas.
Stephen “Steve” Frye and co-plaintiff George St. George, represented by longtime San Diego attorney Alfred Rava, claim PGA-certified teacher Heidi Richardson refused to allow them to participate in a women’s group lesson last spring at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course. The plaintiffs seek $4,000 each, plus attorney fees.
The complaint was filed against Richardson and JC Resorts, a San Diego-based golf course management company responsible for operations at Encinitas Ranch. The plaintiffs also named the golf course owner, Encinitas Ranch Golf Authority, and the city of Encinitas as potential co-defendants in the civil action.
According to the complaint, Frye and St. George, who in court documents identified themselves as nonbinary and male, respectively, had purchased two $75 tickets online for Richardson’s Weekly Women’s Clinic in Encinitas, seeking to “attend a golf clinic in a safe, secure, inviting, unintimidating and comfortable environment for golfers at all levels.”
Arriving at the golf course for the clinic on May 4, 2023, the plaintiffs allege that Richardson told them they could not attend the class “because this clinic was for women only,” a violation of protections under the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
“Simply put, it is against several California antidiscrimination statutes for businesses operating in California to practice gender apartheid and to disrespect, disfavor, dislike, and discriminate against men and nonbinary persons, such as the defendants did here with their women-only golf clinics,” the complaint reads.
But Richardson, an award-winning golf instructor and board member of several professional and junior golf associations, remembers it differently.
According to Richardson, while she was waiting for clients to show up for class, two men entered the instruction center. After greeting them, Richardson said one of the individuals asked, “Are you Heidi? We’re here for the women’s clinic.”
Richardson replied, “Yes,” and said she offered to give them a lesson since no clients or golf instructors were present.
“But isn’t it just for ladies?”
“It’s my women’s program, but I’ll give you a lesson,” Richardson said.
According to Richardson, the men declined the lesson and left the golf course. The following day, Frye sent her an email requesting a refund, to which Richardson responded by again offering to provide them with a lesson.
Six months later, Richardson was sued.
After learning more about the litigants, Richardson, who has spent her professional career promoting women’s golf and teaching players of all ages and skill levels, said she has become determined to fight the lawsuit in court.
“It’s so disturbing that I’m promoting girls and women’s golf and that it could be held against me legally,” Richardson said. “I didn’t realize I could be sued for promoting women’s golf. Every single woman I give lessons to feels intimidated and afraid to join the male-dominated world of golf. They need guidance, support, empowerment and encouragement, particularly from a female golfer. I’m so determined to fight it. Not just to defend myself, but to stop him from doing this to anybody else.”
Richardson’s attorney has filed a response denying “every allegation” in the complaint, noting Richardson and the co-defendants were “erroneously sued.”
This isn’t the first time Frye and Rava, both former members of the San Diego-based activist group the National Coalition for Men, have sued local business owners over alleged gender discrimination.
According to court records and past media interviews, Frye and Rava, along with NFCM members Allan Candelore and Rich Allison, are frequent litigants who, combined, have initiated dozens, if not hundreds, of lawsuits on the grounds of sexual discrimination against men.
In San Diego County alone, Frye has filed at least 36 civil rights lawsuits against various golf courses, small businesses, bars and nightclubs, sporting goods stores and nonprofit organizations, including Babes Golf and Fore the Ladies.
In many cases, the lawsuits, often represented by Rava, are settled out of court.
Rava, a former NCFM secretary whose law office is located in Pacific Beach, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In 2017, Frye and Rava sued Escondido entrepreneur Mandy Rodriguez, known by her stage name “DJ Mandy Mixes,” after he was reportedly denied entry to her event, “A Girls’ Night Out Dance Party,” at the SpringHill Suites in Oceanside.
The case was settled for an undisclosed sum.
“(Frye) has been doing this for years and uses the same attorney,” Richardson said. “He doesn’t do it for emotional reasons; it’s financial. That’s his career, and he’s been doing it for 20 years.”
However, not all of Frye’s lawsuits have proven successful.
In 2010, Frye unsuccessfully sued former president Donald Trump’s golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes after the luxury golf course offered a 25% discount to “ladies” during breast cancer awareness month.
In 2014, a jury ruled in favor of Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen in Brea after Frye sued for discrimination (and $4,000 in compensation) when he was allegedly denied the “Señorita Thursday” $5 drinks-and-apps menu. Lawyers proved Frye had been twice offered the menu but had refused it.
National Coalition for Men
Previous media reports have tied Frye and Rava to the National Coalition for Men, an organization “committed to ending harmful discrimination and stereotypes against boys, men, their families and the women who love them,” according to the group’s website.
In 2021, the organization filed a lawsuit against the Selective Service System, challenging the constitutionality of requiring all 18-year-old men to register for the draft.
The group requested the U.S. Supreme Court declare the practice of men-only conscription unconstitutional on the grounds of sex discrimination. The case made national headlines, but the Supreme Court declined to hear arguments, deferring to Congress “on matters of national defense and military affairs.”
Harry Crouch, president of the NFCM, confirmed that Frye and Rava were once active participants in the organization but are no longer members. He further denied the group’s involvement in any Unruh civil rights litigation related to the plaintiffs.
However, Crouch praised both men for their willingness to hold individuals accountable for allegedly discriminatory business promotions, a prospect he finds objectionable.
“Why don’t you substitute ‘Blacks’ for ‘women’ and see how you feel about it,” Crouch said. “Does it strike you as correct? It’s ridiculous. They are discriminating against half of us, and I find that to be very offensive. In this day and age, it’s absurd. Most businesses have learned that you can’t discriminate based on gender in California.”
The Unruh Civil Rights Act entitles every California resident to “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” The law prohibits businesses from discrimination based on age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.
Crouch, who has served as NCFM president for more than 20 years, said he is unfamiliar with the complaint in Encinitas but dismissed the argument that female golfers benefit from women-only lessons in a traditionally male-dominated sport.
“I think that’s the height of ignorance,” Crouch said. “Anybody who makes arguments like that can’t see the world broadly enough to be inclusive. These arguments are made to sidestep liability. But it doesn’t matter what my view is; it’s the law in California that prevents this type of discrimination. There is no winning here for these people, and I’m pretty sure they won’t do it again.”
Craig Kessler, director of public affairs with the Southern California Golf Association, said the organization is aware of the litigation directed at several Southern California golf courses over the past decade, including the complaint against Richardson, and is working to educate golf facilities on how to market and conduct promotions accessible to everyone.
“We suggest that all promotions and activities be equally available to all golfers,” Kessler said.
While Richardson acknowledged the importance of protecting against discrimination of any kind, she feels Frye and Rava are distorting the Unruh Act and abusing the judicial system for personal gain by intimidating small business owners with threats of costly lawsuits, noting that most owners settle simply to avoid expensive legal fees.
“I want to stop him,” Richardson said. “It’s always been my passion to foster and empower women through golf, and it’s just so wrong that somebody’s allowed to get away with this. I don’t know what I can legally do or how far I can push it, but I’m certainly someone who is going to stand up. It’s not right to tell me I can’t teach women’s golf.”