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Court Bars Local Anti-Bias Measures

June 4, 1993

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The state Supreme Court has barred enforcement of local ordinances against job discrimination, saying discrimination is a statewide issue, not one to be regulated at the local level.

The court on Thursday upheld a lower-court ruling that said a Los Angeles man could not file a gay-rights suit under the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

″Discrimination in employment ... is of statewide concern,″ said Justice Donald Gates in the 3-0 ruling. ″The Legislature has enacted general legislation and expressly stated its intent to exclude local regulation from the field.″

The ruling forbids enforcement of anti-discrimination ordinances in 14 to 18 cities, including San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Cruz and Sacramento, said Jon Davidson, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

However, the ruling allows sexual-orientation lawsuits to be filed under state law, even if a case arose before this year’s effective date of a state law banning job discrimination against homosexuals.

Davidson said the state law appears to provide most of the same remedies as the local measures, including a full range of damage awards.

But the ruling will block enforcement of local laws that covered categories of discrimination not included in the state law, Davidson said.

He said measures that would be effectively overturned include several around the state that ban job discrimination against students, and a unique Santa Cruz ordinance that took effect last August. It forbids job discrimination based on ″physical characteristics″ such as height, weight and some involuntary aspects of physical appearance.

The case involved Jim Delaney, a billing clerk at a freight company who was fired in 1989 after threatening to kill a supervisor and two co-workers. His lawyers said Delaney, a bisexual, had been subjected to brutal treatment for years, had his tires slashed the night before he made the threats and would not have been taken seriously by anyone who knew him.

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