Schaefer order bans anti-gay bias in state jobs

June 29, 1993|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

With an executive order from Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Maryland formally outlawed yesterday discrimination against homosexuals in hiring or promoting for state jobs.

The move comes two months after the Maryland State Police removed sexual orientation as a factor in hiring.

Hilda E. Ford, the state secretary of personnel, says job discrimination against gay men and lesbians has been against state policy since 1984 but never formally included in the Code of Fair Practices, which governs state employment practices. The change in state police policy prompted her to ask the governor to make the policy official for all state jobs.

Mr. Schaefer's executive order adds sexual orientation to the list of factors that the state may not consider when hiring or promoting. Among the others now listed in the regulations are age, ancestry, color, creed, marital status, disabilities, sex, national origin or religion. The code says only merit can be taken into account.

"Discrimination based on nonmerit factors is unfair," Mr. Schaefer said in a statement.

Several other states have legislation that bans discrimination against gays in hiring, and about a dozen more have executive orders covering the issue, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Some states address all hiring, while others only cover hiring for government jobs.

Also, five jurisdictions in Maryland -- the cities of Baltimore and Rockville, plus Howard, Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- have regulations prohibiting discrimination against gays.

Ms. Ford said the state has not considered sexual orientation as a factor in hiring since 1984, when Stephen H. Sachs, then the attorney general, advised Gov. Harry Hughes that such discrimination violated state policy.

"This makes that practice formal and specific," Ms. Ford said.

Last year, the state hired about 3,000 workers through the merit system. By state policy, a job applicant's sexual orientation may be considered only if it will affect his or her work, Ms. Ford said, adding she could not imagine any job that would require a worker to be heterosexual. "If you can show me one, I'll consider it," she said.

"To even ask that question presumes gay and lesbian people have some factor that means they cannot do the job," she said.

"That's just not the case. There are gay police officers. There are gay office workers. There are gays in the military. Being gay is not criminal activity."

Gay-rights advocates, who had been urging the state to make the policy formal, were pleased by the announcement.

"It was a pleasant surprise," said John Hannay, executive director of the Baltimore Gay and Lesbian Community Center. An aide to Ms. Ford had called yesterday morning with the news.

"There has been a policy within state employment that persons were to be evaluated only in terms of merit, but there was nothing specific about sexual orientation," Mr. Hannay said. "What this means now is discrimination is clearly prohibited.

"I really want to commend the governor. This sets a really positive tone."

He said the gay community's next goal is to amend Maryland's human relations code to prohibit bias against gays and lesbians.

That change would give employees of private businesses the same protections that state workers will now have. But Mr. Hannay said such an amendment has died in committee in the last two legislative sessions.

Meanwhile, Ms. Ford said that staff members and managers will be reminded that discrimination against homosexuals violates state policy.

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.