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District of Columbia Commissioners Can Ban Bias in Private Housing

The Commissioners of the District of Columbia have been informed by the Corporation Counsel that they have the legal authority under their police powers to ban racial and religious discrimination in private housing. Pockets of anti-Jewish and anti-Negro bias have persisted in the District.

The Corporation Counsel’s opinion stressed, however, that an anti-bias regulation could be issued only after public hearings to determine whether discrimination endangers the general welfare and safety of the community. Commissioner Walter N. Tobriner declined comment after receiving the opinion from the city’s legal staff. He would not state whether or when hearings would be convened.

Just before Congress adjourned, the southern-dominated House District Committee adopted a resolution asking the Commissioners to hold off any ordinance. It questioned the authority of the District Government to issue one. The Congressional committee said it wanted time to hold its own hearings when Congress convenes next year. A member of the committee staff has conferred with the Corporation Counsel’s office about the authority of the Commissioners to issue an anti-discrimination ban under an 1892 Joint resolution of Congress.