Bill Protecting Gays, Bisexuals Advances

By Hyslop, Margie | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 31, 2001 | Go to article overview

Bill Protecting Gays, Bisexuals Advances


Hyslop, Margie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


ANNAPOLIS - Homosexuals and bisexuals will get specific legal protection against discrimination in Maryland under a measure that cleared its final hurdle yesterday when the House of Delegates approved it 88-50.

The bill - which prohibits discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment - now goes to Gov. Parris N. Glendening who, in January, made the measure a key piece of his legislative agenda.

The Senate, on a 32-14 vote Tuesday, approved matching legislation that adds sexual orientation to civil rights laws that forbid discrimination against people on the basis of race, religion, sex and other factors.

Five Republican delegates, mostly from Montgomery County, joined 83 Democrats in backing the legislation.

Twenty Democratic delegates, mostly from rural or working-class districts, voted with 30 Republicans against the bill.

Lawmakers who opposed the measure did so chiefly on grounds that it could hurt small businesses by subjecting them to lawsuits or force employers, landlords and individuals to compromise personal religious beliefs.

But those weren't the only objections.

"I resent anyone coming in claiming to be a minority as I am," said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore Democrat and Baptist minister who was the only black legislator who voted against the bill.

"Gays and lesbians have served in this chamber many years before any black was allowed to serve and they did so because of the color of their skin," he said.

Her voice quavering, Delegate Sheila E. Hixson - a Montgomery County Democrat who has worked for eight years to pass a homosexual rights law - thanked her colleagues for supporting "a human rights issue."

Delegate Melony G. Griffith, Prince George's County Democrat, agreed.

"This bill isn't about changing a person's behavior - it's about whether we want to establish a legacy of not supporting discrimination of any kind," Mrs. …

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