WASHINGTON -- Maryland's five House Democrats and one of the state's Republican lawmakers have voted for a civil rights bill that outlaws job discrimination.
The House passed the bill 273-158 yesterday.
The members of the Maryland delegation who backed the measure were Democratic Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin, Tom McMillen, Steny H. Hoyer, Beverly B. Byron and Kweisi Mfume and Republican Constance A. Morella.
Maryland Republicans Wayne Gilchrest and Helen Delich Bentley opposed the measure.
"The bill offers us the best chance we have for a bill that will be supported by the majority," Morella, R-8th, said during debate on the bill yesterday.
For fellow Republican Gilchrest, the measure went too far.
"It was a hard thing for me to vote against this," said Gilchrest, R-1st, who recalled "Whites Only" signs and rampant racial discrimination during trips in the South in the 1950s.
"The purpose in drafting this legislation is to enhance civil rights, but the paradox here is that this bill would do more harm than good," he said, pointing to what he called "highly subjective and legally unprecedented" language in the measure that he said would lead to continual challenges in the courts.
"Strictly interpreted, the language in this bill would be viewed as having quotas, raising such issues as reverse discrimination," said Gilchrest. "When we put all this into the public purview out there, it's going to create a little turmoil, a certain amount of animosity and a lot of acrimony."
But Cardin, D-3rd, disagreed.
"In the final analysis, this legislation is designed to restore this nation's commitment to judging individuals on the basis of their skills and qualification," he said.
"This civil rights bill will restore our commitment to eliminating discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, handicap or national origin," Cardin said.