Gay-rights bill's next hurdle

General Assembly: Senate approval was pivotal, but House must resist efforts to amend this bill.

March 29, 2001

ONE FILIBUSTER was surmounted this week by backers of a gay-rights bill in the Maryland Senate, but supporters must remain on guard. Passage of this important civil rights measure isn't assured.

Emotions run high on this proposal to give gays and lesbians housing and employment anti-discrimination protection.

Some conservatives miscast the bill as a government endorsement of sexual behavior. It's not. It simply adds the words "sexual orientation" to the list of reasons for which discrimination is prohibited in housing and the work force.

Fears that this bill could lead to court rulings permitting same-sex marriages and health coverage for same-sex domestic partners were laid to rest when a committee made such actions off-limits.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has worked hard to find a way to overcome opposition in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. He and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller succeeded this time, then Mr. Miller patiently let a Senate filibuster run its course until he had the votes to invoke cloture and pass the gay-rights bill, 32-14.

Now it's up to the House, where speedy action is expected. But if any amendments are placed on this bill, it could mean trouble in the final days of the session.

An amended bill would return to the Senate committee and then to the Senate floor, creating the potential for a second filibuster.

House leaders should insist on passing a "clean" bill that goes directly to the governor's desk. That's the best way to make sure Maryland joins 11 other states and the District of Columbia in guaranteeing all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, fair treatment in housing and employment.

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