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When the rules are silent


Guest Lilian Coupland

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Guest Lilian Coupland

Our rules identify types of membership: ordinary, life, honorary etc.

They are silent of joint or couple membership.

Subscrptions are set each year by the AGM

Our application form has for some time included a subscrption for joint annual memebrship but nothing on joint life membership.

People are now wanting to have joint life membership, and our treasurer has said that this cannot occur unless the rules on membership are changed.

As they do not say anything about joint membership, but we already allow annual joint members, do we really need to change the rules? Surely the 'joint' issue relates just to subscriptions, not to the form of the membership?

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Our rules identify types of membership: ordinary, life, honorary etc.

They are silent of joint or couple membership.

Then, in spite of what's printed on your application, I don't think you have joint memberships (not even "annual joint"). If you want them, you'll have to change your bylaws. Defining membership is one of the fundamental elements of bylaws.

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Our rules identify types of membership: ordinary, life, honorary etc.

They are silent of joint or couple membership.

Subscrptions are set each year by the AGM

Our application form has for some time included a subscrption for joint annual memebrship but nothing on joint life membership.

People are now wanting to have joint life membership, and our treasurer has said that this cannot occur unless the rules on membership are changed.

As they do not say anything about joint membership, but we already allow annual joint members, do we really need to change the rules? Surely the 'joint' issue relates just to subscriptions, not to the form of the membership?

The rules (bylaws?) having specifically identified certain types of membership, other types of membership are thereby understood to be prohibited. See RONR (10th ed.), p. 571, ll. 24-35.

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Surely the 'joint' issue relates just to subscriptions, not to the form of the membership?

Maybe, maybe not. Do both members have to be in the same class? Do they have exactly the same rights as two individual members? The same (i.e., exactly double) dues? It's possible that what you have is simply a different way to fill out a membership renewal form, and send one check instead of two, and that this method does not affect the class of membership. But there's no way to tell without being inside your organization. You'll have to figure out if this is so.

Are "joint members" ever referred to as such for any other reason, apart from renewal of membership? That might suggest a different class of members with different duties, rights, and privileges. And that would need to be in the bylaws.

As always, the specifics matter. And only you (and your organization) know the specifics. So only you (and your organization) can decide how to handle it.

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