The problem with turning this into a discrimination issue (reactively responding) as opposed to stemming the root problem, is that it opens up a whole new can of worms. For example, should a man be permitted membership to a female-only gym? Silly questions that now have merit, since we are reactively trying to enforce common sense morality.
Somehow it seems like there's usually another can of worms anyway... But I don't think that means it's better to simply educate and hope the problem fades away in a generation or few. It's also arguable that things only get better because of some contribution from both approaches. Education and discussion are great yes, but this is more like the Jim Crow laws than any passive misunderstanding. A state says hey look, here's a positive excuse to circumvent protections for a group that is being discriminated against. A whole slew of (mostly Southern) state attorneys (plus Michigan and Montana) have chimed in with an amicus brief
saying, among other expressed motivations, that they also want the Supreme Court to take this up so that they will have guidance as they
likewise craft 'protections' that set religious freedom as an exclusion zone against anti-discrimination laws. If people were not reactively
trying to undermine rights for a group that are being approved in many parts of the country, then no one would have to deal with it. But they are, and they're not backing down without a ruling or a fight, not least a bureaucratic one (then there are the bodies tied to fences and such).
As to your female-only gym example, three points:
First, denial of service cases rely on whether businesses are designated as public marketplace establishments. I was just reading the Willock brief
to the Supreme Court (the lesbian party that sued in the New Mexico case). They say that the photography company is not classified as a freelancer under law but rather as one that has made its services available to the general public. Personally, I don't know all the technicalities of that -- whether it has to do with zoning or contract rules or just how it's determined. But I can imagine that perhaps some gymnasiums could let's say 'incorporate' or whatever the term is, such that they are not (or maybe are no longer) 'publicly available' for business. (There must be proper legal terms for all this but I don't know them.) Then they
pick their clients, but they only get to pick from a pool of clients they have designated beforehand. (What happens if a new kind of group or situation they don't like appears among
what was formerly accepted as part of their client base? Then I imagine, they could still be facing a dilemma. But anyway.) Of course, if just anyone can easily make a freelance or members-only sort of business with a big facility and everything, anywhere, then there could be a wide-scale "gated community" sort of problem with this...
Second, the New Mexico case is specifically concerned with discrimination against a protected minority. It's easier to argue that women deserve to be a protected minority under the law than men. The historical and institutional limitations placed on women's status are pretty well recognized -- to the extent that we have anti-discrimination laws protecting things like bio-sex (and along rather similar reasoning, we have them now for orientation and still more recently, getting a bit more into gender expression). I'm guessing there are more precedents established with this that women may need
women-only facilities to be taken seriously. But I don't have a lot of background reading cases about this, I must admit.
Third, there is room (good or bad) for development of a community around a business site that supports that community, which may have ramifications for who actually wants
to frequent a given place more often... Again in the Willock brief: They note that the New Mexico anti-discrimination law allows the business to advertise using whatever examples it wants and to say whatever it wants outside of a particular transaction relationship
about its beliefs. The business can post what it thinks of gay marriage on its website even, at least under the New Mexico law. They can tell everyone (including prospective customers beforehand) what they're for, as long as -- as a business that has said they serve the public from a publicly available book of service agreements, not a private contractor -- they offer the actual services to everyone equally. When businesses do this, some groups will tend to develop around them more than others. Other clients may be more or less interested in newcomers with a different set of beliefs; I'm not sure how comfy, or even how well
served a small number of men would feel for the first month in that gym you mention anyway (all else aside)... But if someone really wants to have the service
, that's that.