Two months ago, Baltimore County's new Human Relations Commission couldn't decide whether discrimination against homosexuals should be banned under county law. The voting ended in a tie.
But last night, the commission voted 7-1 to recommend that the county join and Howard, Prince George's and Montgomery counties and Baltimore in outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, national origin, age, marital status or handicaps is already banned.
The difference in the two meetings was that members favoring the sexual orientation clause outmaneuvered their opponents by reconsidering the issue on a night when only eight of the 15 members were present. Seven of them favored including sexual orientation in the new law.
Dick Rudolph, a Towson shoe store owner and last night's dissenter, first asked if a filibuster was in order to block the vote. Then Rudolph said, "The B&O railroad will be proud of you tomorrow," referring to the majority's maneuverings.
Commission chairman Joseph Matricciani tried to stop the locomotive with Robert's Rules of Order, but finally conceded that he was overruled and outvoted on member Thomas Carbo's motion to reconsider the issue.
But Matricciani didn't lose quietly, however, charging that Carbo and his allies had arranged their effort without informing him. "I think the tactic is a little sleazy, folks," he said. Several members said they objected to that description of their activities.
Others, however, said they felt strongly that April's 6-6 deadlock was an abrogation of the commission's responsibility to make a decision. Because of the tie, the County Council, which is the only authority that can change the law, has ignored the issue, they said.
"This commission cannot leave unresolved an issue as important as this one is," said member Ken Holt.
"In effect, we agreed to do nothing. We can't say we really took a position," added member Milton Rossoff.
The commission held several public hearings on the issue over the winter, and was to recommend action to the council.
John Hannay and Anne Carny, representing the Baltimore Justice Campaign, a group working for civil rights for gays and lesbians, said they were pleased with the new vote.
They hope that the council will approve the discrimination ban. "The County Council needs to come into line with the rest of the state," Hannay said.