Commission leaves decision on gay policy to council

April 04, 1991|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The Baltimore County Human Relations Commission, which was to recommend to the County Council whether homosexuals should be protected from discrimination under the county code, failed to come to a consensus yesterday and will leave the decision to the council.

"It really, in essence, means it will be in the lap of the County Council," said John S. Singleton, commission director.

After nearly two hours of an intense and emotional debate, six of the commission members present voted for a motion outlawing discrimination against homosexuals and six voted against it.

Although, technically a tie means the motion to protect homosexuals from discrimination failed, commission members said the council had asked them to report back with their recommendations.

So the County Council will receive two reports from the commission -- one in favor of amending the county's discrimination law to protect homosexuals and one against it.

"Some have argued that it is a moral issue or a biological issue but the basic issue is one of civil rights," said Milton C. Rossoff who voted to change the code to protect homosexuals.

"I know it's been passed in the city and passed in some counties. Are we going on an emotional thing or the facts? There is not sufficient evidence to prove it is necessary," said Scott McGregor who opposed the motion.

Three commission members were not present for the vote.

Before voting, commission members heard testimony at two public hearings.

Baltimore County created the commission in 1989 to replace the Community Relations Commission, which had not met for two years and had no paid staff or subpoena powers.

The new commission was given power to conduct investigations, subpoena witnesses and documents for hearings and issue rulings that require remedial action.

The County Council asked the commission to study the issue and make a recommendation because the county code does not protect homosexuals from discrimination.

If the County Council votes in favor of outlawing discrimination against homosexuals, Baltimore County will join Montgomery, Howard and Prince George's counties and Baltimore, Mr. Singleton said.

For the 12 months ending in October 1990, 212 discrimination complaints were filed with the Baltimore Community Relations Commission, 13 of them about discrimination against homosexuals.

But gay activists say the number of actual incidents of discrimination is much higher. Many cases are not reported because of the confusion over what is illegal, they say.

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