The Cosmos Club, declaring that its all-male membership policy is protected by the U.S. Constitution, has decided to oppose a preliminary determination by the D.C. Human Rights Office that the club violates the city's antidiscrimination law.

John R. Risher Jr., an attorney for the prestigious club, said the Cosmos would take part in a conciliation effort with the Human Rights Office and the complainants in the case, John H. Banzhaf III and Teresa M. Schwartz, two law professors at George Washington University.

If that fails, Risher said, the club "intends to avail itself of its right to a hearing before the D.C. Human Rights Commission," the 15-member body that can issue a final ruling.

The club announced its response in a filing yesterday with the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Banzhaf and the Americans for Democratic Action have asked the board to revoke the club's liquor license on the grounds of discrimination.

In letters a week ago, Banzhaf and the ADA asked the board to revoke the license immediately, citing the Human Rights Office's probable cause finding that the Cosmos is not a "distinctly private" club and that even if it were, it would be required to comply with the antibias law because it receives a business license from the city.

An amendment to the D.C. antidiscrimination law, which is expected to take effect in December or January, is patterned after a New York City ordinance that is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

That case is concerned with "the criteria that determine what is a private club and what are the constitutional rights of such an organization as to membership policy," Risher said. He said it would be inappropriate for the ABC to act before the Supreme Court did.

"Our view is that the club's policy is constitutional," Risher said, "and nobody in the D.C. government structure can resolve {this case} without the guidance of the Supreme Court." He said the Human Rights Office ruling "sweeps the right to privacy out the window."