Increasingly, lines are being drawn in Howard County between those who want to put an avowed homosexual on the county's Human Rights Commission and County Executive Charles I. Ecker's steadfast refusal to do so.
On one side stand Bob Healy, a Columbia resident who has applied for the vacant post, and activists in the Democratic Party. Has he failed to get Mr. Ecker's nod because he's gay? Because he's a Democrat and Mr. Ecker is a Republican? Or is there some other unknown reason?
Mr. Ecker recently stepped forward to shed some light, albeit not very much. The county executive says that "appointing [Mr. Healy] at this time would be too controversial." While Mr. Ecker contends he is not opposed to nominating a gay or lesbian to the commission, he refuses to elaborate on what disqualifies Mr. Healy.
Absent elaboration, it appears Mr. Ecker is being swayed by factions within the Republican Party that have a variety of reasons for opposing Mr. Healy, including his politics and sexual orientation.
It may be tempting, given what Mr. Ecker has revealed so far, to accuse the county executive of discriminating against a class of persons protected under the county's human rights laws. Little, however, would be gained from such an effort. Aside from severely damaging the commission by throwing it into turmoil over a single candidate, relations between Mr. Ecker and the Democratic controlled council also would be frayed.
Compromise, of course, would be a reasonable approach. Mr. Ecker is entitled to pick whomever he feels is best for the commission. The council can reject the nominee if it feels that person would be unable to uphold county human rights laws.
Let Mr. Ecker select his nominee. Then we can judge by his actions rather than the empty rhetoric we have heard thus far.