Howard Co. Council confirms lesbian for rights commission Appointment vote splits 3-2 along party lines

July 28, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The Howard County Council voted 3-2 along party lines last night to confirm the appointment of a lesbian to the Human Rights Commission.

"It's somewhat what I expected, but I'm a little disappointed," Columbia resident Jan Nyquist said after her confirmation. "I feel I will do a good job for all people."

Councilman Darrel Drown, a 2nd District Republican, had said before his vote that he was against Ms. Nyquist because he was "not convinced Jan would represent the views of those who differ from her."

Fellow Republican Charles C. Feaga said he did not anguish over his "no" vote as he has over some other appointments of Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker: "We need someone who's well-rounded who doesn't have an ax to grind."

Council Democrats echoed sentiments expressed last week at Ms. Nyquist's 4 1/2 -hour confirmation hearing.

Supporters said then that Ms. Nyquist is so committed to the cause of civil rights that she would have had no trouble being confirmed were it not for her sexual orientation.

Ms. Nyquist is "compassionate and will represent all views in the community," said Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a 3rd District Democrat. "I think she will do a phenomenal, fantastic and excellent job."

Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, a 1st District Democrat, agreed.

"I congratulate Chuck Ecker for nominating Ms. Nyquist to this position," she said. "She will protect all classes."

Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, a 4th District Democrat, said he was impressed with the community support for Ms. Nyquist.

"She will be an outstanding commissioner," he said.

Gay rights activist Robert Healy of Columbia, rejected by Mr. Ecker before the nomination of Ms. Nyquist, embraced her after the vote. "I think they've got a great choice, I really do," he said.

Mr. Healy said gays and lesbians are not accorded the same rights as everyone else.

"There's still a need for a lot of education on that issue," he said.

Mr. Healy said he has not decided whether to file a complaint against Mr. Ecker for failing to nominate him to the commission.

Mr. Healy applied to fill a vacancy in December after the council rejected Mr. Ecker's nomination of a Baptist minister opposed to gay lifestyles.

"I have to weigh the benefit from a public education standpoint" before deciding whether to file a grievance with the commission, Mr. Healy said.

Human Rights Commission Chairman Roger Jones said he believed the executive had discriminated against Mr. Healy in one of three ways -- because he lives in Columbia, because he is a Democrat or because of his sexual orientation.

Mr. Ecker said he had no problem appointing a gay or lesbian, but he wanted it to be his nominee and not the council's.

Ms. Nyquist said she will be stepping up her activities outside the commission with speaking engagements to educate the community about the civil rights needs of gays and lesbians.

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