ALBANY (Jul. 20)
A proposal to bar racial and religious discrimination was on its way to inclusion in New York State’s Constitution today after the Constitutional Convention had advanced it to third reading, despite the appeal of one delegate to preserve what he called “the right to discrimination.”
The proposal was sponsored by the Bill of Rights Committee. Senator Perley A. Pitcher Republican majority leader, and Chauncey M. Hooper, Democratic Negro delegate from Harlem, obtained the adoption of an amendment which would prohibit the State or any of its Agencies from exercising discrimination.
The amended proposal reads: “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by this State or any agency or subdivision of the State.”
William J. Wallin, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the State of New York, appealed for the “right of discrimination as a liberty which I think ought to be enjoyed by every one in this State.” Declaring “we all have our prejudices — in a sense they are God-given,” the Yonkers Republican affirmed his “right” to fire an employee for any reason, to put restrictions on his land and to decide who should join his club.
Mr. Wallin’s speech was denounced by M. Maldwin Fertig, New York Democrat, as the “most un-American sentiment that has yet been uttered or is likely to be uttered at this convention.” The proposal was also supported by representative Hamilton fish Jr. and Edward F. Corsi, who warned of the danger of European racial hatred seeping into New York State, and, the previous evening, by Senator Robert F. Wagner.
Senator Wagner declared in a prepared speech that adoption of the proposal would be a means of ending “beastly manifestations” of racial intolerance and prejudice. The vote was in the Committee of the Whole with ex-Governor Alfred E. Smith presiding.