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Gays say they are 'in fear' for jobs until discrimination bill is law


ANNAPOLIS -- Supporters of a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation argued for the legislation yesterday by talking about what it would not do.

"The gay community is not seeking special protections, such as hiring quotas," Sen. Janice Piccinini, D-Baltimore County, and the bill's sponsor, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "They are not seeking special exception to housing. They are simply seeking due process."

State law bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, physical or mental disabilities. Ms. Piccinini's bill would add to the list sexual orientation -- defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality.

Four jurisdictions -- Baltimore City and Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties -- have passed similar anti-discrimination laws. In December, the Baltimore County .

Council rejected a move to extend its law to protect homosexuals.

David D. Pool, a 42-year-old Hagerstown man who only recently acknowledged his homosexuality, told the committee how he lost a promised job when he confided to an employer who had just hired him that he is gay.

He said the employer promptly told him not to report for work, saying the office's female employees would not like it, or that people might infer he was involved with one of the male employees.

"Until our legislature takes some action, we will continue to live in fear," said Mr. Pool, who ended up on unemployment before finding work as a Realtor.

Since June 1989, according to the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, there have been 117 reported incidents of harassment, discrimination or violence involving homosexuals in Maryland. Thirty-three occurred in counties without anti-discrimination laws.

Although there was no formal opposition to the bill, Sen. Frederick C. Malkus, D-Dorchester, did ask if the General Assembly "should honor those who bring about AIDS because of their sexual relations."

Doctors testifying for the legislation told the senator that international statistics on AIDS indicate it is as widespread in heterosexual populations as it is among homosexuals.

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