Elks Get More Time To Comply With Discrimination Law

January 16, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

The Annapolis Elks Lodge 622 will get more time to comply with a newcity anti-discrimination law, despite opposition from the City Council's two black aldermen.

By a vote of 5-2, the council passed the extension Monday night, giving the Elks Lodge another year to comply with the law, which took effect Jan. 1. The law denies city liquor licenses to private clubs with discriminatory bylaws.

Of 12 private clubs in the city, only the Elks Lodge is likely tobe affected by the law. The lodge's bylaws, which are adopted by members nationwide, deny membership to women but not to blacks. However,the club has no black members.

Lodge members who spoke at Monday night's meeting said they had made a good-faith effort to comply withthe law. In October, the lodge asked the Elks' national convention to change its bylaws to admit women. The national membership, which overwhelmingly defeated the same bylaw

change in July 1989, will vote on the change in July.

Lodge members also said their community service and charitable donations made them a valuable community organization.

But the council's two black aldermen, Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, and Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, said they weren't impressed.

Gilmer, a World Ward II veteran and former federal employee, talked abouta group he was with in the 1970s that was told it couldn't conduct aChristmas party at an Elks Lodge if any blacks were coming. He also said a black youth was kicked off an Elks-sponsored team in 1975 because of his race.

"You sit there and tell me how great your organization is," Gilmer said. "You embarrassed me by not letting me in for a Christmas party. Now you're going to embarrass me by asking for my vote. It's not going to happen again."

"We come back tonight to address one of the last bastions of bigotry," said Snowden, who proposed the original law. "Signs used to say, 'For Whites Only' and 'For Coloreds Only.' Now they say, 'For Members Only.' "

Alderman Ruth C.Gray, R-Ward 4, voted for the extension -- reluctantly, she said.

"I personally feel that discrimination of any kind is abhorrent," Gray said. "But what I find even more abhorrent is the clubs that have changed their bylaws and still discriminate."

Two other clubs withno female or black members -- the Eastport Democratic and Annapolitan clubs -- do not have discriminatory bylaws. The Eastport DemocraticClub changed its bylaws to admit women earlier this year, then denied membership to three women who applied.

Although the new law tookeffect Jan. 1, it won't affect clubs until April, when they must renew their liquor licenses with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Because licenses are good for one year, the Elks will be able to keep their license at least until April 1992.

Elks Exalted Ruler GeorgeBond said the lodge would do what it could "to make the council proud of that decision."

In other action Monday night, the City Council rejected a proposal to change the name of Spa Creek to "Carroll Creek," its original name. The council also voted to reopen Youngs Farm Road, a hazardous road the city had closed temporarily at the request of residents. Residents could apply for approval from the city to close the road.

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