The D.C. Human Rights Office has rejected a request to delay proceedings against the all-male Cosmos Club to await action by the U.S. Supreme Court on a case involving men's clubs in New York City.
Maudine R. Cooper, the D.C. agency's director, said efforts would resume tomorrow to reach a conciliation agreement under which the club would change its 109-year-old membership policy. If the prestigious club does not make the change, Cooper said, she will refer the case for a public hearing to the 15-member Human Rights Commission, which can issue a final ruling.
Cooper reached a preliminary determination in early November that the club was subject to the District's antidiscrimination law. But conciliation was delayed when the Cosmos said the Human Rights Office should wait for a Supreme Court ruling on a New York ordinance banning discrimination in large private clubs.
In a letter Wednesday, Cooper said her determination did not involve issues raised in the New York City case. She said the Cosmos would have to comply with the antidiscrimination law because it holds a D.C. liquor license even if it could prove that it is "distinctly private."
At a news conference, John H. Banzhaf III, a George Washington University law professor who brought the complaint against the Cosmos, said he would seek an "affirmative action plan" requiring the club to admit a definite quota of women members. He said a hearing might produce "embarrassing" information about whether the club discriminates against blacks, Asians and homosexuals even though it does not bar them as members.
John R. Risher Jr., the club's attorney, said Banzhaf "has certain standards that I find very troubling."