Deukmejian signed or vetoed nearly 1,000 bills passed this year by the Legislature. The sheer volume makes it impossible for the public to learn the fate and significance of more than a handful of the bills. Perhaps that is why the governor saved some of his most controversial vetoes until 11 p.m. on Sept. 30, the last day he could act.
Buried in the rubble of the several hundred vetoes was one bill which would have prohibited California from issuing or renewing liquor licenses to elite, private clubs that discriminate.
The governor's veto represents an alarming retreat from civil rights. It is country-club Republicanism at its worst. Big, elite private clubs are not above the law. If they want a state-issued liquor license, they must open their doors to all people of this state, including women, blacks, Hispanics, Jews and other minorities.
It is particularly surprising that our law-and-order governor chose to ignore the law in his veto message. He claimed that he had to veto this bill to protect the First Amendment right of free association of current private-club members. That is incorrect. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court, led by the most conservative of chief justices, William Rehnquist, ruled unanimously that a New York City law even stricter than the vetoed bill was fully constitutional. That decision was not surprising, because it was the third straight unanimous Supreme Court decision in the last five years striking down private-club discrimination.