LOS ANGELES -- Elite clubs that traditionally catered to only influential men in the nation's second largest city no longer can legally exclude people from membership on the basis of their sex, race or color.
By a 12-0 vote, the City Council Tuesday approved an ordinance that redefines private clubs such as the California Club and the Jonathan Club as business clubs and therefore subject to state anti-discrimination laws.
The ordinance defines business clubs as organizations that offer a regular meal service, regularly receive money from non-members for club expenses and have 400 or more members.
Club officials have defended their right to restrict their membership, saying private clubs are protected by the constitutional protection of freedom of association.
But Councilwoman Joy Picus, who sponsored the city law that was modeled after a New York City measure, has argued that the all-male, mostly white clubs lock business women and minorities out of the important business deals and political contacts routinely made at the clubs.
The law would enable the city or a private citizen to sue for civil damages and obtain an injuction prohibiting discrimination. The law was amended on the council floor to include anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals and the disabled.
Mayor Tom Bradley, who is black and has boycotted activities at the exclusive clubs, will sign the ordinance later this week, his aides said.
Private clubs across the nation have come under attack for their exclusive membership policies. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Rotary Club must admit women, and the state Franchise Tax Board gave preliminary approval April 7 of a measure to bar business tax exemptions at private clubs with exclusionary membership policies.
But the Los Angeles clubs are resisting the changes.
Critics of the law have warned it will inhibit the clubs' ability to refuse socially undesirable candidates, but city legal officials said exclusive membership policies will still be allowed, as long as they are not based on gender, race, religion or ethnicity.