Baltimore County's Human Relations Commission made a compelling statement last week in recommending that the County Council amend a local anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation as a protected category. Currently, the commission has the power to investigate claims of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, color, creed, handicap or national origin. A change in the law to allow it to investigate discrimination complaints by gays and lesbians shouldn't require any great infusion of time or energy. Unfortunately, however, it probably will.
A dissenting minority opinion, which also will be presented to the council, questions whether homosexuality is "normal" or a "behavioral disorder," then concludes that there isn't enough evidence to support the need for laws protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination.
Such broad assertions not only divert attention from the crucial questions but also raise homophobia to the level of public policy. Indeed, they are rooted in the irrational fear that protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination will encourage more people to become homosexuals. This is a little like arguing that protecting people with handicaps from discrimination will encourage others cut off an arm.