Clergy, gays lecture council on rights, bias Baltimore Co. chastised over legislation's defeat

December 17, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

Baltimore County Council members were lectured last night on why gay men and lesbians should be protected from discrimination.

"My religious tradition teaches that we must love the stranger as we love ourselves," Rabbi Julie R. Spitzer said.

The lecture was delivered by a dozen clergy members and gay-rights activists a week after the council rejected, on a 4-2 vote, a county Human Relations Commission recommendation that gays be included in county codes that protect minorities, the handicapped and the elderly from discrimination.

Ken Morgen, a psychologist who is co-chairman of the Baltimore Justice Campaign's Baltimore County Committee, said a recent survey found that four of 10 gays had been threatened because of their sexual orientation and that one of four gays had been punched, kicked, beaten or assaulted.

The Rev. James Crowder, a minister at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore and a Cockeysville resident, told the council members that he had come to the conclusion that sexual orientation "is given at birth."

"The fact that it's not a matter of choice puts it in a whole different category, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Council Chairman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, who had voted for the recommendation, said the council would "keep an open mind" on the issue but it was unlikely the issue would be taken up again soon.

Last night, the council also voted 7-0 to pass a law that permits parade organizers to bar people or groups they deem offensive or inconsistent with a parade's theme.

The law was needed, council members said, because a group of anti-war protesters had insisted on marching in Catonsville's July 4 parade last summer and police told parade organizers that excluding them would violate protesters' First Amendment rights to free speech.

Such hostility was generated by the protesters, who carried dolls meant to represent babies killed by U.S. arms and chanted their opposition to U.S. action, that "people were restraining their husbands from attacking the group," said Councilwoman Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st.

Mrs. Manley had sponsored the bill, which gives anyone with the $10 county parade permit authority to bar individuals or groups so long as the organizer requires participants to register at least seven days in advance.

An average of 88 permits were issued for parades in each of the last five years, according to county statistics.

County attorneys said that the law did not violate First Amendment guarantees because individuals or groups could still make their statements on the sidewalk or obtain a permit for their own parade.

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