WASHINGTON – An alternative Washington newspaper has agreed to stop publishing advertisements that implied men and women would pay different prices on some nights at restaurants and bars.
The decision by The Washington City Paper came in response to a complaint filed last year by a George Washington University law professor.
Phrases such as “Ladies’ Night” or others implying a woman will pay less than a man will not appear in the paper, said City Paper General Manager Amy Austin.
“We’ve agreed to be watchdogs over the ads that we publish. If we publish [a discriminatory ad] inadvertently, we’ll publish an apology,” Austin said.
The apology, running in the paper now until March 9, says that under the D.C. Human Rights Act, it is unlawful for places of “public accommodation” to grant privileges to one sex and not the other. The paper will not violate this law, the ad says.
John Banzhaf, the law professor who filed the complaint with the D.C. Department of Human Rights, said it was more effective to go after the advertising outlet than the offending businesses.
“If they can’t advertise [Ladies’ Night], more than half the value is gone,” he said.
The complaint was part of a larger effort to do away with marketplace distinctions based on gender, he said.
“There are situations in which we tolerate blatant, clear discrimination … [based on] gender, whereas we would never tolerate it against race,” Banzhaf said.
“We send the wrong message that discriminating against gender is not as wrong, not as illegal, and that’s not right,” he said.
Banzhaf’s course, “Legal Activism: Public Interest Law,” is meant to teach students that the law can be used to attack important social problems, he said.
Students in his classes have brought other complaints against gender-based pricing.
D.C. dry cleaners were forced last year to charge the same for cleaning a man or woman’s shirt. Six D.C. salons agreed last month to stop charging women more for haircuts than men, Banzhaf said.
Austin said The Washington City Paper did not fight the complaint because it would have cost too much money and time.
Although the paper did not lose any advertisers as a result of the change, she said, it may have lost some fundamental rights.
“I guess there’s a part of City Paper that wants to be able to publish as much as you can because you don’t want information to be stopped. You want it known,” Austin said.
“I fundamentally believe you should be allowed to publish anything,” she said.