Gay Rights in Baltimore County

October 01, 1991

It is time for the Baltimore County government to come out of the closet and face the fact that its Human Relations Commission is flawed as long as it does not protect people who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Ample symptoms of such discrimination exist. An example is a Cockeysville man who, after two visits to a Towson dentist, was told he could no longer be treated because of his sexual orientation, even though he had neither AIDS nor was HIV-positive.

Or how about a gay man in Arbutus, whose neighbors spread rumors that he was a pedophile and that he had AIDS? After he was assaulted by one of his neighbors, he called the Baltimore County police but was extremely reluctant to press charges because he feared further reprisals.

One does not have to approve of homosexual behavior to agree that, sexual orientation aside, everyone has basic human rights. One of those rights is to go about one's daily life free of unreasonable interference in personal decisions about education, jobs or the public accommodations one uses. Fear should not weigh on those decisions.

It may not be homophobia, but Baltimore County's political leaders have shown a lack of courage in coming to grips with gay rights. When Dennis Rasmussen was county executive, he broadened the scope of the county' anti-discrimination agency in 1989 but pointedly excluded complaints based on sexual orientation from its jurisdiction. The administration of Roger Hayden has shown no leadership. Members of the county council are equally timid. They seem to fear that a gay rights ordinance would destroy the county's family image.

Whether we like it or not, homosexuality is a question that affects many lives and families. It is estimated that 10 percent of the population is openly or secretly homosexual. In Baltimore County, that's more than 70,000 people. It is time for the county government to send a clear signal that discrimination based on private sexual matters is just as repugnant as discrimination "based on race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, handicap, marital status, political affiliation, police misconduct or any related conditions" -- the current grounds for filing complaints with the county.

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