Montgomery County Council member William E. Hanna Jr., calling homosexuality "a deviation from the natural," yesterday attacked a proposal to ban discrimination in employment or housing on the basis of a person's sexual orientation.
His view drew immediate criticism from officials of the county Human Relations Commission, which helped draft the legislation. "Mr. Hanna's remarks about homosexuality fly in the face of all the medical evidence that exists," said Michael F. Dennis, the commission's compliance officer. He added, "Sexuality is as incidental to a person as race or sex and should not be grounds for discrimination."
The target of Hanna's criticism is a measure that would add a person's sexual preference to categories such as race and sex now covered by the county's antidiscrimination law. The law also protects persons from discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of their religion, marital status or handicap.
"This bill legalizes and blesses homosexuality and I think that's wrong," said Hanna, who later described himself in an interview as a "traditional Catholic." He said homosexuality "represents a deviation from the natural" and called for the deletion of the phrase "sexual orientation" from the proposed legislation.
Former commission chairman Jim Mihalik, who has campaigned for the antidiscrimination bill for several years, estimated that there are about 55,000 homosexuals in Montgomery County and said he has received "dozens" of complaints about job or housing discrimination from homosexuals. "This bill is long overdue," he said.
Hanna, who predicted easy passage for the measure despite his objections, proposed amendments allowing employers to deny work to homosexuals in cases where a job "requires the employe to spend unsupervised time with a minor of the same gender."
Two other council members commented on the measure. Neal Potter said he shared Hanna's "feeling about homosexuality," while Rose Crenca supported the bill as acknowledging "a fact of life, saying that as to consenting adults, it is none of our business."
Howard County and the District of Columbia are among the few jurisdictions nationwide that prohibit discrimination against homosexuals, according to a commission spokesman.
The council has yet to schedule a public hearing on the legislation.