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Senate hears testimony on gay rights bill

March 15, 2001

Senate hears testimony on gay rights bill



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A Washington County man told a Senate committee Wednesday that he lost a job as an office administrator because he's gay.

David Poole said that two weeks before he was going to start his new job, his boss-to-be found out about his sexual orientation and told him not to show up for work.

"I was without recourse," said Poole, who asked the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday to approve a gay rights bill that would give others in his situation the right to sue.

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The bill would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations, employment and housing.

The conservative Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which poses the biggest hurdle to the bill, may take a vote on the issue as soon as today.

Two years ago, the committee never took a vote, which effectively killed the bill.

The climate has shifted slightly since then. A change in membership has made the Judicial Proceedings Committee a little less conservative and the bill has the backing of a statewide commission that toured the state hearing stories about discrimination against gay people.

Those who testified for the bill Wednesday included a rabbi and a Catholic priest.

Others, like Poole and Della R. Post of Port Republic, Md., told more personal stories.

Post said she worked at a car dealership where salespeople refused to wait on those they thought were gay.

Later, Post discovered that her 29-year-old daughter is a lesbian.

"I'm really ashamed of myself, seeing discrimination and not getting involved until it hit home. Until it hits us at home it doesn't seem so important," she said.

Opponents including Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, remain against gay rights.

At Mooney's request, a psychotherapist who says he helps gay people become straight testified against the bill.

Richard Cohen, president of the International Healing Foundation in Prince George's County, said it is not a discrimination issue because gay people can change.

"Legislation is not the solution, only education. Anybody can be healed," he said.

The president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union of Maryland testified against the bill on the basis that it promotes homosexuality.

Opponents also argued that it would foster pedophilia.

"We're going to have more kids that are hurt," testified Tres Kerns of Annapolis, who said he was molested by a camp counselor when he was 10.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is already banned in the state's largest jurisdictions including Baltimore City and Montgomery County.

The state bans discrimination based on race, sex, creed, color, religion, national origin, marital status and physical or mental handicap.

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