Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley signed an ordinance banning discrimination at most of the city’s large private clubs Thursday, and one of the officials responsible for drafting it, City Controller Rick Tuttle, called for its quick and stringent enforcement by the city attorney’s office.
City Atty. James Hahn promptly responded: “I’m putting everyone on notice in the City of Los Angeles that this is the law and it will be enforced. It’s time for organizations with discriminatory membership requirements to join the 20th Century.”
Meanwhile, one club with a bylaw excluding women, the California Club, gave its strongest hint yet Thursday that it is about to move toward changing that policy. A board member said the club expects to take action next week, but wants it approved by the membership before it is announced.
Club Statement Expected
Club President Lawrence P. Day would say only, “We don’t have a statement at this time. We expect to have one in the next few days.”
At a City Hall ceremony attended by many who had worked for up to 20 years to end discrimination at the California Club, the Jonathan Club, the Los Angeles Country Club and others, Bradley declared:
“This is a historic day in the city of Los Angeles. The City Council has unanimously passed (this ordinance). . . . The city should be proud of this action. This is an open society and by the actions which we take today, we are assuring that we take one more step in removing any vestige of discrimination or discriminatory practices in our city.”
The ordinance, sponsored by City Councilwoman Joy Picus, makes it illegal for any club with more than 400 members that serves regular meals and takes payments for meetings attended by non-members to exclude people from membership on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability. It will go into effect 30 days after its imminent formal publication.
Bradley said he hopes that Los Angeles’ action will set a pattern for the rest of California. But he said he personally does not seek entry to the clubs. He added with a touch of acerbity that before he became the city’s first black mayor, the big downtown clubs, the California and the Jonathan, had traditionally offered a courtesy membership to the mayor. “When I took office, no such invitation came,” he said.
‘This Is Now the Law’
Bradley said he had been given assurances by club representatives that “they will comply and will do so quickly” with the ordinance. He declined to identify the club representatives. “I know that they are people who respect the law,” the mayor said. “This is now the law in this city, and I have no doubt about their willingness to comply with it.”
But Tuttle said he is particularly concerned about the California Club.
“If the California Club, during this 30-day window which they have (before the ordinance takes legal effect), does not change its written bylaw discriminating against women, I call on the city attorney . . . to bring action against the club,” Tuttle said.
Addressing himself to the club members, he added:
“It seems to me that you have essentially a choice between two different roads. One is the road which leads in my judgment to the blind alley of obfuscation, dilatory tactics, tokenism and delay. There is another road to choose, which is to adjust to this change, to welcome women and minorities, to welcome Hispanics and blacks and Jews and Asians into your membership and, to paraphrase from the late Dr. Martin Luther King (Jr.), to move forward into the sunshine of civil rights and out of the shadows of discrimination.”
‘Palaces of Power’
Picus, in remarks at the ceremony, called the clubs “palaces of power” that had, by excluding women, been hampering their careers, keeping them from the informal business discussions that help recruit business clients and make people valuable to their firms.
“And all of that should change and hopefully it will change quickly,” she said. “And we in Los Angeles who are so proud of our rich heritage and our diverse ethnic minorities, it is fitting and proper that we be among the very first (in the country) to do this.”