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Council urged to appeal ruling on Elks liquor license


Waving signs and chanting "No license to discriminate," two dozen demonstrators marched on Annapolis City Hall to protest allowing an all-male Elks lodge to keep its liquor license.

Annapolis residents, black leaders and members of the Sane/Freeze peace group joined the protest Monday night. The group marched into the City Council chambers during the regular meeting to protest last week's vote not to appeal a ruling that overturned a city law denying liquor licenses to private clubs that discriminate.

Holding signs urging "File an appeal" and "No subsidy for racism and sexism," the protesters sat peacefully through the meeting. Half the group stayed after the session to express their views to the city's eight aldermen.

A week earlier, at a meeting laced with emotional charges of racism and sexism, the council narrowly voted against appealing the ruling by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge James A. Cawood Jr. His decision allowed Lodge 622 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks to continue serving alcohol at social functions.

The four council members who favored the 1990 law have since asked the court's permission to challenge the ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion to intervene last Friday on behalf of two Annapolis women and Aldermen Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5; Ruth Gray, R-Ward 4; Ellen Moyer, D-Ward 8, and Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3.

"I'm here because the Elks club is getting all the benefits of a liquor license, and they discriminate," said Patience "Pat" Schenck of Annapolis.

"It's not fair," said Annapolis resident Tuwmaa Ismael. "The council vote was wrong."

Jim Baroff, a physicist from Edgewater, warned that so-called "harmless discrimination" at social clubs is only a couple of steps removed from institutionalized bigotry. He recalled going to a beach when he first moved to Anne Arundel County 30 years ago and seeing signs posted forbidding Jews and blacks from swimming there.

"That kind of stuff starts small and keeps growing," he said.

The council listened to the protest but kept the meeting going. After a brief discussion, the council approved a request to build a 1 1/2 -story addition to the recreation center at the Harbour House public housing complex.

Harold Greene, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, said the addition will house a larger meeting room, offices and a sports center with a weight room.

The council also heard an application by Merritt Athletic Club to build a swimming pool and indoor track.

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