Ecker's Bold Move

June 21, 1992

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker has decided to fill a vacancy on the county's Human Rights Commission with a 42-year-old mother of two, who is a lesbian and political independent. So far, the nomination of Jan Nyquist, a Columbia resident, looks like a good move.

The Republican county executive had been hazy about the qualities he was looking for in a nominee, but with this selection he made an emphatic and positive statement on the issue of gay rights.

A previous candidate, Bob Healy, was deemed too controversial by Mr. Ecker. It was unclear whether Mr. Healy's homosexuality or his politics were at issue. Mr. Healy, a Democrat, was heavily favored by Democratic members of the county council, who all but demanded his appointment even though it was not theirs to make.

By choosing a compromise candidate, Mr. Ecker should be able to avoid a confrontation with the Democratic majority on the council. How his nominee will fare before the two Republican council members is another matter. The strongest opposition to the nominee is likely to come from Christian fundamentalist churches in the county.

Mr. Ecker moved swiftly and in the right direction. He smartly removed his assistant, Gail Bates, from the selection process. Ms. Bates, a fundamentalist herself, had openly declared her opposition to county laws protecting gay rights.

The executive may pay a political price for this nomination, depending on the onslaught the opposition can muster. Given the courage he has displayed with this decision, however, Mr. Ecker should have no trouble weathering an attack.

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