A bill introduced in the Maryland Senate by Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly (D-Prince George's) that would prohibit police departments from asking police applicants about their sexual practices has raised some questions in Annapolis about whether the bill was intended to protect gay rights.

"There are a lot of snickers about the bill in Annapolis," said Del. Timothy Maloney (D-Prince George's). The legislation, now being called "the sex bill" by legislators, will be considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee tomorrow.

O'Reilly, who is considered a conservative by his colleagues, said he drafted the legislation after a female acquaintance told him that during a lie detector interview with the Prince George's police department, she was asked: "What is the most unusual sex act that you have ever engaged in?"

"She was offended by it and I was incensed by it," O'Reilly said, adding that he thought the question was an invasion of privacy. He said that although the woman was insulted by the questioning, she did not withdraw her application for a job as a police officer.

O'Reilly, vice chairman of the judicial proceedings committee, said that he thought the intent of his bill was clear, but acknowledged that he has had to spend a lot of time explaining it. Judicial committee chairman Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George's), said that O'Reilly has "unfortunately become the champion of gay rights." Miller predicted that some conservatives will rebel against the legislation.

"I didn't introduce a gay rights bill," O'Reilly said, although he conceded that the Moral Majority may oppose it while gay rights groups support it. "

Deputy Chief Thomas Davis, who oversees personnel and training for the county police, said that the polygraph test and the questioning is part of a long evaluation process that has used for about seven years. "I do not recall ever using a sexual question alone to turn down a male or female applicant," Davis said.

Cpl. Edward Adams, who administers the lie detector interview, said the sexual questions are asked because "we want to eliminate people who may have been involved in sexual offenses." He said he is looking to see if applicants may have been involved in rape, child molestation or peeping Tom incidents--which would "cause the department embarrassment."

Police officials in Baltimore and Montgomery counties said they do not ask similar questions about sexual behavior. A state police spokesman said, however, that job applicants are currently lasked, during polygraph tests, if they have participated in any sex acts that are against the law.

Adams and Davis said the questioning was not designed to weed out homosexuals. "We will not deny an individual employment because he is a homosexual," Davis said.