I have received a message that the Ladies' Oriental Shrine of North America voted at their annual meeting of the Grand Council in May to drop the requirement of a Masonic connection for membership. Founded in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1903, the LOSNA does not claim to be an official auxiliary of Shrine International (formerly known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine). They are a separate and distinct Order.
According to their website, up until this recent vote, a candidate had to be "related to a member of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine or a Master Mason by birth, marriage or adoption. "
This will unquestionably be a topic of conversation when Shrine International holds its annual Imperial Council Session in San Antonio, Texas in July. The Shrine has lost $3 billion (with a B) out of its former $8 billion foundation fund in the last 18 months, and is voting to close 6 of its 22 hospitals. Shrine International is making subtle and not so subtle changes in its public image, and even its initiation ritual that moves it away from the Masonic connection. It is clear that, if the primary purpose of Shrine International is to operate its hospitals, the Masonic community is no longer large enough or well-heeled enough to sustain its support. The Shrine has little choice but to open its doors to the general public and drop its Masonic requirement.
That said, I don't see a 2/3 majority vote passing anytime soon, which will only lead to a deepening financial catastrophe for them, because members will want to sentimentally cling to the past instead of realistically planning for the future. IMO, Freemasonry and the Shrine need to part company. Yes, grand lodges will lose some members, and the Shrine will lose some members. But both will adjust.