ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 14 -- The Annapolis City Council passed an amendment to an anti-discrimination ordinance tonight to give the city's largest private club the time to comply with the legislation.
By a 5 to 2 vote, the council exempted the Annapolis Elks Lodge until April 1992 from the ordinance, which prohibits private clubs from receiving licenses for alcohol if they exclude people of a particular sex, race, religion, nationality or handicap.
The law, passed last February, made Annapolis the first jurisdiction in Maryland to pass such anti-discrimination legislation clubs. Officials of the 1,500-member Elks Lodge, which has no black or women members, said it requested the exemption because it needed permission from its national organization to change its bylaws. The national body will meet in July.
"We're very pleased," said George Bond, exalted ruler of the lodge. "We've done everything we could do to comply with the ruling. We had hoped reason would prevail, and we're glad it did."
In testimony before the council tonight, several members of the lodge recounted charity events and other community activities sponsored by the group and implored the council to vote for the exemption.
"We have an organization asking for a small amount of time to get their house in order," said Robert Dietz, a former president of the lodge. "The basis of their very existence is peace, justice, charity and brotherly love."
But others said that the council would be making a mistake by giving the lodge an extension.
"In my opinion, the council should stand fast," said Morris Blum, owner of WANN, the city's oldest radio station. "There's a principle involved here. Don't extend it."
Alderman Dean Johnson, who represents the ward in which the Elks Lodge is located, said he decided to vote for the extension because "I think they're making a good faith effort" to comply with the law. "I have no reason to believe otherwise."
"Annapolis has waited 350 years to get this far," said Johnson, who also had voted for the ordinance. "Another few months won't hurt the process."
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who sponsored the bill and voted against the exemption for the club, said he understood Johnson's position, "but didn't necessarily agree."
"I don't believe they've made a good faith effort," Snowden said, noting that other clubs with discriminatory bylaws had changed them since the ordinance was passed. "They have never been in favor of this law."