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Westside Digest

Santa Monica : Anti-Discrimination Law

September 22, 1988

An ordinance prohibiting clubs or organizations in Santa Monica from discriminating by denying a person access to facilities or membership on the basis of sex, race or other criteria was approved by the City Council.

"This measure is a social statement. I wouldn't be surprised if there is not an organization in this city that discriminates," said Councilman David Finkel, adding that the ordinance will set a precedent for other cities.

The measure would not apply to "distinctly private" organizations--those clubs with a membership of 400 or more that serve meals during at least half of the year but that regularly allow non-members to pay to use the facility for trade or business purposes.

City employees would also be prohibited from knowingly attending meetings or programs offered by discriminatory clubs or organizations while on "city time or city payroll." City employees could enter such clubs while on duty when responding to emergencies that affect public safety.

A violation of the new ordinance, which is based on similar measures enacted by New York City and Los Angeles, would result in a civil action by the city or a private citizen, with a minimum penalty of $250 plus legal fees.

Provisions in the measure discourage City Council members from attending functions at discriminatory clubs and require them to indicate that they attend those meetings out of individual choice and not on behalf of the city.

The ordinance defines illegal discrimination as the prevention of membership or admission to a club "on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, AIDS or disability."

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