MARCH 21, 1958
NEW YORK—I am glad that Governor Averell Harriman and the Democratic leaders in the New York state legislature have called on the Republicans to join in passing the bipartisan Metcalf-Baker fair housing practices bill.
This is the only major civil rights proposal before the legislature this year, and I am sure all members of minority groups and liberal citizens generally are looking to our representatives to extend New York's fine tradition of leading the nation in the field of civil right.
The bill would ban discrimination in the sale of private homes in developments of 10 or more, and in apartment house rentals. This means that a person's character and credit rating—not his religion, race, or national origin—would be the legal standard under which he could obtain shelter for his family.
The Sharkey-Brown-Issacs law, already passed by New York City, makes these standards applicable within the city limits. It is important that this protection be extended to the entire state.
The New York State Committee on Discrimination in Housing, which represents some 40 religious, labor, and civic organizations which support the bill, tells me some upstate industries are losing skilled technical workers because they are members of minority groups who find it impossible to obtain adequate housing for their families. Some of these industries are engaged in production vital to our national defense.
I find it hard to believe the people of New York would be willing to let prejudice threaten their security.
The Metcalf-Baker bill is now in the Assembly Rules Committee, and I hope many people from all over the state will write Chairman Oswald D. Heck urging its passage.
This is a particular responsibility of the Republicans in our state, since our Legislature is controlled by them, and I hope that they will accept the responsibility, since they have been saying for a long time that they are the party that wants to see real improvement in civil rights.
They are also the party where any faint suggestion that civil rights might affect the pocketbook usually makes them shy away from that particular action. But in this case it is basically necessary that we see that there is no discrimination in housing in our state.
We cannot expect the South to take the necessary steps to comply with the Supreme Court order on desegregation of schools if we do not take the one step incumbent on us and get rid of hampering restrictions under which one section of our population is unable to live in decent conditions at reasonable prices.