New Orleans City Council bars bias by Mardi Gras parade clubs

December 21, 1991|By New York Times News Service

NEW ORLEANS HC — NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans City Council has voted unanimously to outlaw discrimination in the carnival clubs that sponsor the city's Mardi Gras parades.

Mayor Sidney Barthelemy said yesterday that the action sends a strong message "that New Orleans is an open town and everyone is recognized."

The law bars clubs from excluding anyone because of "race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, physical condition or disability."

Most of the clubs, which are private, are segregated by sex, and most are white, but there are also prestigious black clubs.

The carnival, 12 days of parades,parties and promenades endinon Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, has been a fixture of New Orleans society since the 19th century.

Sixty-five club leaders issued a statement Wednesday saying the proposal would be a "tragic mistake," and some city officials have said the ordinance would "kill carnival" by driving parades out of the city or prompting clubs to cancel them.

But the councilwoman who proposed the ordinance, black community worker Dorothy Mae Taylor, has been adamant about changing the carnival structure.

The City Council voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance Thursday night after carnival clubs agreed to a compromise that delays enforcement of the law for a year.

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