Lesbian sues state police Policy not stated until rejection

November 18, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

A young woman filed suit against the Maryland State Police yesterday, charging that she was denied the opportunity to become a trooper solely because she is a lesbian.

The suit -- identifying the woman only as Jane Doe, to protect her privacy -- contends that the police agency's refusal to hire her on the grounds of sexual orientation was a violation of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

In an interview last night, Ms. Doe said she was never told of a state police policy barring homosexuals at any stage in the lengthy application process -- not even after she acknowledged being a lesbian in a polygraph examination, and again in a psychological interview about two months later.

"I did not think it was going to be an issue," she said.

But in February 1990, she received a letter stating without a reason that her application to become a trooper was rejected.

At a meeting she requested to find out why, Ms. Doe alleged in the suit, First Sgt. William H. Arrington told her it was a policy of the state police to refuse employment to homosexuals.

Ms. Doe said she wanted it in writing, and received a letter from the personnel chief, Maj. Morris L. Krome, dated April 6, 1990, saying that the character and activities of employees "must be beyond reproach," and that the agency "must reflect the values of a majority of society."

"Homosexual or other socially unacceptable conduct will undoubtedly foment controversy and conflict with the department. This consideration as well as the concern of the police department to protect its public image and avoid ridicule and embarrassment, justify inquiry into the sexual preference or orientation of a trooper candidate," the letter said.

Ms. Doe said she had never before encountered rejection because of her sexual preference, and was initially angered when informed of the state police policy.

"I wanted to do something about it from day one," she said, explaining how she explored various options of protest through human relations agencies before approaching the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing her along with co-counsel James E. Edwards Jr. and Matthew W. Nayden.

The 25-year-old plaintiff, who said she is 5 feet seven inches tall and 140 pounds, successfully completed steps including physical agility and written tests, drug screening and the polygraph examination, according to the suit filed in Baltimore's Circuit Court.

The decision not to hire her was based solely on sexual orientation and "lacked any real or substantial relationship" to her ability to perform the job of a state trooper," according to the complaint.

"The anti-gay policy of the Maryland State Police is outdated and increasingly out of step with the rest of America," said William B. Rubenstein, director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

"Major police departments across the country no longer allow discrimination based on sexual orientation," he said.

"Ms. Doe passed every preliminary test with ease," said Ruth E. Harlow, staff attorney for the gay rights project. "The Maryland State Police, like the United States military, must get over their irrational and discriminatory fear of lesbians and gay men."

President-elect Bill Clinton favors lifting the ban on gays in the military, but has run into opposition from political and military leaders.

ACLU spokeswoman Susan Goering said the suit had been in preparation for months, and its filing "wasn't motivated by Clinton's win, though that certainly is encouraging and may shift momentum in the country on this issue."

A state police spokesman said the agency would not discuss pending litigation, or "any issue which directly impacts the case, which obviously would include our policy." He also would not comment on whether employment had been denied in the past on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Page Boinest, a spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said, "The state police have their own personnel policy. The Schaefer administration policy is to hire based on the ability to perform the job, and other factors don't come into consideration."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.