WASHINGTON -- Six of the eight Maryland House members endorsed yesterday the civil rights bill President Bush has threatened to veto, with two of the three Republican members voting against a measure they said would create "animosity" and full employment for lawyers.
"Opportunity in employment has been a key facet of American society since the civil rights movement first began," said Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, who joined his five Maryland Democratic colleagues and Representative Constance A. Morella, D-Md.-8th, in supporting the measure.
"We are not seeking an edge. . . . We do not want any person to give anything to women or minorities," said Representative Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th, during debate on the House floor Monday. "We just want an even playing field because we believe it is the American thing to do."
But for Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, the Democratic measure went "too far."
"This is going to create animosity among the employers and communities," said the freshman Republican from the Eastern Shore. The measure many Republicans said would invite job quotas might produce a "backlash" against civil rights, he said.
But supporters of the Democratic legislation said it specifically outlawed quotas and would allow minorities to overcome a series of 1989 Supreme Court rulings that have made it more difficult for them to win job discrimination suits.
The Democratic measure and a competing Republican version would offer a series of changes in job discrimination laws that would make it easier for minorities -- as well as women, religious minorities and the disabled -- to sue for damages.
Both Mr. Gilchrest and Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, endorsed a Republican version -- which failed in a House vote Tuesday night -- that would reverse two of six 1989 Supreme Court cases at issue and would provide a limited
remedy for job harassment.
Mrs. Bentley said the GOP measure would not spur lawsuits like the Democratic version she opposed. "It doesn't make permanent employment for lawyers," she said.
The Lutherville Republican was the only member of the state delegation to vote against last year's civil rights bill.
Although the civil rights measure sparked heated rhetoric in Congress, it seemed to produce little interest from constituents. A spokesman for Mr. McMillen reported few letters or phone calls on the measure.
"I'm not sure if it's a people's issue or a political issue among politicians and lobbyists," said a spokesman for Mr. Mfume.