Can private clubs discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color etc.?

I was reading a GQ thread on casinos and much was made of the point that they are “private clubs” and can do whatever the hell they want with respect to allowing people in or telling them to leave. This is apparently, especially so for clubs on Indian reservations, as they are not only private but have some sort of quasi-sovereignty to fall back on.

Can say… a private golf club legally discriminate on the basis of race, creed and color if they so choose. I thought this was illegal. I have also read about various gatherings of women, typically for outdoor feminist-centric festivals that ban men outright from participating.

It’s odd. I’m in the real estate profession where discrimination is a HUGE no-no and I thought all this “none of your race-creed-color allowed” stuff ended years ago for both public and private institutions.

IAAL (although not a civil-rights specialist).

I believe that, in theory, a truly “private club” can discriminate based on race, sex, etc. But casinos, etc., which are otherwise open to the public (a “place of public accomodation”) and (more importantly) engage in interstate commerce, are covered by Federal Civil Rights laws. I believe that to be a truly “private club” it has to be so attenuated from interstate commerce that even a good lawyer or prosecutor can’t make the case, i.e., four guys who play cards at one’s house every Saturday night.

If the employee count is low (I believe 12 employees or less), I think you are allowed to somewhat openly discriminate. It’s my understanding that this is the reason every chinese restaurant has only chinese waiters, etc.

Certainly if it is a private club (which I would think by definition means there are restrictions on who can enter, use the facilities, etc.) then you can do whatever you want. Naturally, it is generally not in your best interest to discriminate unless you want a lot of hate mail, firebombings, etc., but if you are swank enough, no one seems to care. I think you get into trouble if anyone from the public is otherwise invited but are then treated differently once they arrive based on some physical/ socioeconomic trait.

I imagine this is why the nightclubs with the bouncers that only let in the ‘beautiful people’ don’t get busted for not allowing random people in the club. You see, the doorman allows you to enter, and then you may have to pay a cover charge, hence the ‘general public’ isn’t invited in. They are welcome to ‘apply’ to the doorman who may then select them based on various criteria.

IANAL, but I think that all of the anti-discrimination laws apply only to certain “public” institutions. Institutions that do not receive any governmental assistance and are not subject to regulation can do whatever they want to whomever they want.

An example are the numerous country clubs where African-Americans, Jews, or any other group are not allowed to join. There are even all-Jewish clubs that non-Jews are not allowed in.

The fed laws cannot affect any organization, club, etc. that does not have substantial contact with interstate commerce. Most states, however, probably have similar laws against discrimination. The US Const. gives the citizens certain rights against the fedl gvt (Bill of Rights) and the states. It does not give any right against any individual.

The reason why the discriminatory clauses that used to appear in deeds (“this property shall not be conveyed, leased, etc. to any Negro, Jew, or SDMB poster”) no longer appear and are not enforceable is that in order to enforce them, one would have to bring a suit in a state court. The state, however, is enjoined from enforcing such restrictions. I do not believe such clauses (restrictions) are null and void, as such, but since they are not enforceable, they may as well be.

Locally, many taverns here are “private clubs.” However, it costs only a buck or two a year to join. The “private club” label is used so they can keep out anybody they desire, such as blacks.

Freedom of association doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if the government can force you to associate with someone you don’t want to.

Private clubs can and do discriminate. Off the top of my head, both Cypress Point in California and Burning Tree Country Club in (Bethesda?) Maryland do (blacks and women, respectively, I believe). Cypress Point gave up its PGA tournament rather than open its membership. Burning Tree, which I believe is very exclusive and to which a lot of the political elite belong, has lost preferential property tax treatment available to golf courses.

In general, this is how governments have addressed the issue–by providing that such organizations get no public subsidy, lose all tax benefits, and are generally non-entities as far as the state is concerned.

Thanks to all your your explanations. It’s much clearer now.

I’m starting a private club
It’s for only the highest caliber of men
I’d tell you more about it
But my standards are quite high
and I can’t get in

Astro, I think that one of the other respondents hit the nail on the head, when they mentioned the “sovereignty” thing. Since the native American tribes do recieve special sovereign treatment from the U.S. Government. They can do virtually anything they want to on tribal property as they have been ruled by the courts to be sovereign nations.

Funny thing one of the asst mgrs where I used to work was hired at the Office Manager of a all mens’ club in Chicago.

She got the job as they couldn’t NOT hire her because she was a woman.

So now she can be the boss but not join.

A “private club” is you and your friends. If you have a party, you, not the government, decides who can attend. This applies whether you are paying for it by yourself, or if you and your friends share the costs.

You and your friends “private club” can even rent a building to have the party at. The people who own the building can not discriminate on who they rent to; that is business. Once you [or the club] rent it, you [or the club] can restrict entry to your friends [club members] and their guests.

If you hire a caterer to help out, you can not restrict who they hire; that is business.