SAN JOSE, Calif.
— It’s not uncommon for businesses in gay bars to try to lure customers by offering a variety of drinks.
But that’s not the case for San Jose’s gay bathhouses, which are banned from accepting money for sex or other services.
The San Jose City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to ban San Jose Gay and Lesbian Community Center from operating a gay bath.
The city had argued that it was protecting the health of the community by preventing the establishment from receiving any cash from anyone, even its own employees.
“Insanity,” said Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a Democrat who voted against the ban.
He noted that San Jose was one of the first cities to enact a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
He said it was “absurd” to make it legal to offer the services of a gay-friendly bathhouse.
The ban, which goes into effect on Wednesday, will prohibit the city from issuing permits or licenses to the San Jose LGBT Center or any other business that serves gay and lesbian customers, according to a press release from the San Francisco-based San Francisco LGBTQ Center.
The Center’s director, Sam Bowers, said the ban would be “inappropriate” in a city where there are already a number of gay-themed establishments in operation.
“We are pleased that the City Council has listened to our concerns about the harm caused by the City’s proposed policy and acted swiftly to address it,” Bowers said.
The San Jose ordinance has been challenged in federal court, but San Jose is appealing, said attorney Brian Lichtman, who represents the San Joaquin Valley Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which sued the city in December.
The coalition filed a complaint in March against the city for its refusal to allow the center to serve gay patrons.
San Jose has not yet filed a response to the coalition’s challenge, which has not been made public.
Lichtman said the coalition filed its lawsuit after hearing from dozens of people who said they would not want to have to travel to another city to visit gay and transgender patrons.
“This is a public health issue,” he said.
San Francisco is one of six states that have passed anti-discrimination ordinances that prohibit the public accommodation from charging a fee for service to or from gay and trans patrons, according the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In California, gay-straight alliances have also been allowed to operate in some other cities.
San Diego, for example, has a city ordinance that bans the existence of gay and straight clubs.
The legislation passed in 2011, but opponents say it was too broad.
The American Civil Liberties Union of California filed a lawsuit challenging the San Diego ordinance last year, arguing that it violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The law protects LGBT people and their families.
“The ban on anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations violates both California and federal law,” said ACLU of California Executive Director Adam Silverman.
“San Diego’s ban is both unconstitutional and unconstitutional under California law.”