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Panel hears stories of bias against sexual orintation

November 21, 2000

Panel hears stories of bias against sexual orintation



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Twenty-nine proponents and opponents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights turned out Tuesday night to testify before the Maryland Commission to Study Sexual Orientation Discrimination.

The commission was developed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening in September to consider legislation that would prevent employers, public accommodations or property owners from refusing to hire, serve or rent to individuals based on sexual orientation.

Baltimore City, Montgomery, Howard and Prince George's counties are the only jurisdictions in the state that currently protect homosexuals.

The public hearing, which served the Western Maryland region, was held at North Hagerstown High School. The commission also scheduled hearings in other parts of the state.

Thomas Horvat, of Frederick County, said he's against the legislation, stating the Bible is the foundation of the law.

"People's rights must be affirmed within the limitations of the law," Horvat said. "When I look at my family and what's being proposed here, there are other people's rights that have to be considered, not just homosexuals."

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Cathy Brennan, a property owner from Baltimore City who said she favors the law, gave accounts of "real stories from real people" that told of professionals from Hagerstown who were fired from their jobs and called names because they were homosexuals. She also said many people are afraid to be open about their orientation because they fear the repercussions.

"It's a sad fact that there are many cases of discrimination that you won't hear about," Brennan said.

Ron Clarke Jr., an ordained evangelist from Washington County, said homosexuals are living in sin and should repent. He also said he opposes the law, believing it would be nothing more than special rights.

"We can call it gay, lesbian, an alternative lifestyle, but God calls it sin," Clarke said. "A landlord should have the opportunity to rent to who they want to rent to. It's a wrong lifestyle."

Carolyn Moller, however, said there shouldn't be discrimination and that everybody should be accepted for whom they are.

"We're all in this life together," Moller said. "If my brothers and sisters are held back ... we are all held back."

Bob Tansey, of Frederick, said the majority of Western Marylanders don't want homosexuals in the community and are willing to fight to prevent passage of any legislation pertaining to gay and lesbian rights.

The homosexual lifestyle is encouraging a moral decline in the country, according to Tansey.

"Our moral compass is dysfunctional," he said. "The family must prevail in America. The people in Western Maryland utterly oppose this."

A preliminary report of the findings will be compiled and sent to Glendening with recommendations during the next General Assembly session. A final report is due by July 1, 2000.

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