Increasing numbers of gays and lesbians...

IN RECENT YEARS,

February 14, 1996

IN RECENT YEARS, increasing numbers of gays and lesbians have stopped the game of hiding their personal lives. What they gain in shedding the burden of secrecy can be offset by prejudices.

Sometimes it's a landlord who decides a relationship between two men or two women is reason enough to evict them, regardless of their reliability in paying the rent or taking care of the property. Sometimes an employer's discovery of a worker's sexual orientation leads to termination. Or the job is never offered because an employer bases judgments on social standing, not ability.

For several years, there have been efforts to give lesbians and gays the same ability to appeal to the state Human Relations Commission other protected groups enjoy. Usually those bills are dead on arrival. This year, however, there are a few hopeful signs.

The strongest opposition comes from religious conservatives who cite Biblical arguments to support their fierce aversion to all aspects of homosexuality. Yet there are other Biblical messages that may also apply -- such as lessons about treating neighbors as one would like to be treated.

This country was founded on the belief that who or what you are should not deprive you of basic freedoms and legal protections. That's true for skin color and sex, as well as sexual orientation and religious belief.

A RINGING salute to the Baltimore County Council for finally passing legislation making t easier for authorities to enter homes and turn off alarm systems in the owner's absence.

The bill was proposed after a burglar alarm rang nonstop for six days in 1994 in a locked Randallstown home while the owner was abroad, but also as a result of other incidents of shorter duration.

It fills a gap in the laws that allow authorities to stop a public noise nuisance and to enter premises in cases of suspected emergency, but hindered them from shutting off the maddening racket of misfiring burglar alarms. The new law requires a court order for entry, which some judges have been reluctant to issue due to lack of a specific ordinance.

Council action was delayed over concern the proposed criminal offense was too severe. The sanction will now be a civil fine of $50 for unattended alarms ringing more than two hours at night and four hours during the day.

FEW EDUCATORS can lay claim to so sweeping a transformation of a public college as Thomas E. Bellavance wrought at Salisbury State. It was a sleepy state college deep in debt and short on accomplishments when he arrived 15 years ago. Now, the school has a hefty endowment, is a regional university that draws students from throughout the mid-Atlantic and has spawned a vibrant partnership with the historically black state college down the road in Princess Anne.

That is quite an accomplishment. Dr. Bellavance, who died this past weekend at 62, created an atmosphere that drew top-notch administrators, professors and students to Salisbury -- not to mention substantial contributions from such Eastern Shore businessmen as Frank Perdue and Richard A. Henson. He turned the campus into an economic, social and intellectual engine for the town and Lower Shore.

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