In an emotionally charged two-hour debate, the District of Columbia City Council passed yesterday by a 12-to-1 vote its second human rights act in the last four years.
The long debate centered on how much of the legislation should apply to homosexuals and was fueled by strong opposition from Council member Douglas E. Moore (D-at large) to any inclusion of gay rights in the bill.
The legislation was passed a second time to strengthen the legal status of the first bill, which had been passed by an appointed Council in 1973 before the elected Council took office.
Until yesterday's vote, the human rights act was part of the city's police regulations rather than of the D.C. Code. Several Council members were concerned that courts would determine the previous legislation invalid because I had not been passed by an elected Council.
Much of the Council's time was spent yesterday debating five amendments offered by Moore that would have made substantial changes in the previous rights legislation. All five amendments failed.
Moore, who last week announced that he will run for chairman of the Council in 1978, has been outspoken against including homosexuals in the human rights act.
Several Council members said they viewed his amendments yesterday and his insistence on a roll-call vote during the legislation's passage, as politcally motivated and an attempt to "sabotage" the bill.
One of the two most important amendments Moore offered would have required employers to submit annual affirmative action reports to the D.C. Office of Human Rights, an agency already backlogged on discrimination cases according to the D.C. auditor.
Another Moore amendment would have placed the burden of proof in discrimination cases on employers who would have had to prove the discrimination did not take place.
Moore's actions puzzled several Council members who had considered the legislation's passage a routine matter in view of the Council's well-publicized resolution last spring in support of gay rights in Dade County, Fla.
One of the most important amendments that Moore offered yesterday would have granted employers the right to discriminate against homosexuals in occupations involving jails and correctional institutions, and schools and health institutions where Moore said people could be abused or vulnerable to "homosexual or deviant behavior."
"I think this is a sly, slick way for the government to support gays, faggots . . . and homosexuals," said Moore, who rocked in his chair during most of the discussion and smiled Council members Marion Barry (Dat large) and John Wilson (D-two), ardent supporters of gay rights.
Wilson, who sponsored the human rights act with barry and others, called Moore's comments about the city's homosexual community "totally unfair and unfounded."
"It is very important that this Council make it clear that we are turning our backs on the Anita Bryant mentality and that we are not going to tolerate it," Council member Polly Shackleton (D-three) said.
In other action, the Council made permanent the emergency property tax relief measure passed this summer. The legislation exempts the first $6,000 of the assessed value of a single-family home and grants a 12 per cent tax credit to cooperative associations and "circuit breaker" relief to the elderly, blind or disabled.
The Council also passed in first reading a bill that would provide $12.3 million to help fund the first three years of construction andoperating costs for the proposed downtown convention center. The money would be provided by a new hotel tax of 80 cents per room and continuation of the 10 per cent surtax on businesses.