New Anti-Bias Bill Aimed at Clubs

Times Staff Writer

Broadening its assault on private clubs that practice discrimination, the Assembly passed legislation Monday that would ban liquor licenses for large clubs that exclude minorities and women.

By a vote of 41 to 33, the Democratic-controlled Assembly passed legislation for the first time that would end what critics say is state support for private clubs that discriminate on the basis of race, sex and religion.

"Today, we can put an end to this last disgraceful remnant of another time," Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Tarzana), author of the bill, told his colleagues.

"One quarter-century after the Unruh Civil Rights Act was enacted, California still supports discrimination. We do so by conferring the privilege of a state-issued discount liquor license on a number of elite, Establishment private clubs that refuse to admit women, blacks, Hispanics and Jews."

Assembly approval of the bill--by the minimum 41 votes required--marked the first time after 12 years of attempts that such a measure has cleared either house of the Legislature. The bill will next be considered by the Senate.

In the past, proposals to strip discriminatory clubs of their liquor licenses had been stymied by the quiet lobbying of the clubs, which count among their members some of the most powerful business and political figures in the state.

Other Point of View

Club members have argued that they do not advocate discrimination but have the constitutional right to freedom of association. They also said revocation of their liquor licenses could cause financial hardship and make it difficult to keep their members.

Friedman's bill could affect as many as 71 private clubs, including the Los Angeles Country Club, the Wilshire Country Club, the Pacific Union Club in San Francisco and the Sutter Club in Sacramento.

The California Club, the Jonathan Club and others that have moved in recent months to admit women and minority members could lose their liquor licenses under the bill if they were to continue any discriminatory practices, such as providing segregated facilities.

License Renewal

Specifically, the bill would prohibit the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control from issuing or renewing the liquor licenses of clubs that have 400 or more members, provide regular meal service and regularly accept payment from non-members.

Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents would determine whether a club practices discrimination by examining club bylaws, checking membership lists or investigating complaints from individuals who claim they have been discriminated against.

"It would not close down the clubs," Friedman said. "It would simply remove the state's participation in their discriminatory practices."

Under Attack

Discrimination by private clubs has come under attack from many directions during the last year. The United States Supreme Court ruled that California's landmark Unruh Civil Rights Act prevented the Rotary Club International from banning women members.

The state Franchise Tax Board and the Legislature both voted to eliminate tax deductions for members of clubs that practice discrimination. And the Los Angeles City Council adopted an ordinance banning discrimination by private clubs.

While no Assembly members spoke in opposition to Friedman's bill, 32 Republicans and one Democrat voted against the measure. Assemblyman Pete Chacon of San Diego, the lone Democrat, said later that he had mistakenly cast his vote against the legislation, thinking it was a different bill.

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