An Annapolis alderman is pressing the city to appeal a recent court decision overturning a landmark law that denied liquor licenses to private clubs whose membership bylaws discriminate on the basis of race, gender or ethnic background.
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who ushered in the bill amid controversy two years ago, has decried the ruling as a setback for civil rights in Maryland's capital. The Democrat representing the city's 5th Ward said he hopes his colleagues on the City Council will vote tonight to appeal the ruling by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge James C. Cawood Jr.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the passage of the law, is also pursuing an appeal.
The judge's ruling last month cleared the way for an all-male Annapolis Elks lodge to continue serving alcohol at social functions. Under the 1990 law, Lodge 622 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks would not have been allowed to renew its liquor license, which expired at the end of April.
In a 10-page opinion, Cawood wrote that the law might be "vital and laudatory," but it had "nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol except that it would deprive the Elks of their license." He agreed with lawyers for the Elks, who argued that the state's public accommodations law exempts private clubs from government regulation.
Annapolis City Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson argued the same state law forbids clubs to discriminate in their membership policies. An appeal would also contend the city has the right to regulate liquor licenses.
In other business tonight, the council will hear a petition for a June 27 march and rally to raise awareness about AIDS.
Annapolis Children's Foundation, a non-profit coalition, wants to schedule a walk-a-thon and rally to raise money for AIDS research and awareness about the local impact of the disease. More than 150 residents of Anne Arundel County have been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS cases in the last decade. Only 42 are still alive, said Dr. Linda Joe, director of the communicable disease division of the county Health Department.
In Annapolis alone, 38 people are known to be suffering from AIDS. Many more have been infected with the HIV virus that causes the deadly disease, said Dr. Joe, who estimates at least 1,000 residents of the county have the virus.