Senate should approve gay rights legislation

Sexual orientation: It's time to ban discrimination in Maryland against gays and lesbians.

April 01, 1999

THE MATTER is one of fairness and justice: Everyone should be treated equally, regardless of race, age, gender -- or sexual orientation.

Everyone should have the same right to apply for a job or to rent an apartment without fear of discrimination. Yet gays and lesbians do not have that right under Maryland law.

A bill seeking to ban prejudicial treatment on the basis of sexual orientation is one of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's prime objectives in the legislative session.

He has devoted more effort to passing this bill than any other. He even testified for the first time before a legislative committee, relating the pain his brother, who was gay, felt about hiding his sexuality to keep his job with the Navy.

The bill passed the House, 80-56.

Common sense should tell senators this is a matter of civil rights. Some local governments, including Baltimore City, have such ordinances. There is no reason to deprive other Maryland citizens who happen to be homosexual of basic rights.

Citizens have made their minds up. A poll released yesterday by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications Inc. of Annapolis shows the bill is supported by more than a 3-1 margin statewide, with majority backing in every demographic group.

Sadly, one member of the Senate committee considering this bill has gone to extraordinary lengths to foment fear and intimidation.

Sen. Alexander X. Mooney of Frederick County has used $1,000 in taxpayer dollars from his office account to have material published against the bill in newspapers where key undecided senators reside.

This is an attempt to inflame passions and intolerance. Mr. Mooney's pressure tactics, and his unacceptable diversion of taxpayer funds, should be denounced by his colleagues.

Discrimination against people on the basis of color, age or gender is illegal in our democratic society. Members of the Maryland Senate should follow their conscience and add sexual orientation to that list.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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