State police ban on homosexuals dropped

April 28, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer Staff writers Jay Apperson and Roger Twigg contributed to this article.

Sexual orientation was eliminated yesterday as a factor in hiring and promotion by the Maryland State Police -- a policy change prompted by the discrimination suit filed last year by a rejected lesbian job applicant.

Col. Larry W. Tolliver, the police superintendent, ordered his personnel division to ensure that employment decisions are not affected by the sexual orientation of any current employee or future applicant and that no direct or indirect inquiry on that subject would be made "in any phase of the employment process."

The decision was a partial victory for the 26-year-old woman who, in a suit identifying herself only as Jane Doe, complained that the police agency violated the Maryland Declaration of Rights in refusing to hire her on the grounds of sexual orientation.

In a telephone interview arranged by one of her lawyers yesterday evening, Jane Doe said she was pleased by the policy change. "I feel that it will benefit everyone -- the gay and lesbian community hopefully, as well as the state police."

The lawyer, James E. Edwards Jr., said settlement negotiations have put the Baltimore Circuit Court suit on hold, and that he was bound by agreement of the parties not to discuss the talks. Any settlement in the case would likely occur "within the next couple of weeks," he said.

"The purpose of the lawsuit was to change the policy and have her become a trooper," Mr. Edwards said. "One of those things has already occurred. We're hoping that eventually she will get her position and the other reason for the lawsuit will come to pass."

Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler III, acknowledging that the suit "brought this policy into focus," said, "I think this goes a long way to resolving the issues in the case."

The would-be trooper, also represented by co-counsel Matthew W. Nayden and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the suit in November, more than a year and a half after her rejection for a job.

She said she was not told of an agency policy barring homosexuals at any time in the lengthy application process -- not even after acknowledging she was a lesbian during a polygraph examination and during a subsequent psychological interview.

According to the suit, she passed physical and written tests, drug screening and the polygraph exam, but was rejected -- without explanation, until on her demand state police officials cited that policy.

Capt. Johnny Hughes, a police spokesman, said the change resulted both from the suit and a study by the agency's Personnel Management Division and Planning and Research Division that "could not find any police agencies that even ask a person's sexual orientation."

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