Mayor Marion Barry has asked the City Council to approve $63 million in city revenue bonds to finance renovation at Georgetown University, despite complaints from homosexual rights activists that the university refuses to recognize the activities of gay student groups.
City Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said yesterday he has received the request from the mayor as well as a letter from the university urging that his committee move swiftly to approve the bonds.
"I'm not in a rush to do anything, because I don't like mistakes," Wilson said. "When I figure out what it the bond proposal means to me and what it means to the economy of the District and to human rights and discrimination, then I'll make a decision."
Barry last month delayed transmitting the university's request for the tax-exempt bonding authority after he met with officials of the politically influential Gay Activist Alliance and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, who sought to block the bond issue unless the university was willing to make some concessions to gays on campus.
The mayor finally sent the bond request down to the council last week after attempting, without success, to mediate the dispute between the gay activists and Georgetown officials, including the Rev. Timothy Healy, president of the university.
The mayor inserted language in the formal bond request, acceptable to the university but not to the gays, stating that Georgetown's failure to comply with the D.C. human rights law, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, would not necessarily lead to a default of the bonds, provided the university was pursuing a judicial or administrative test of the law.
A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled last year that Georgetown may withhold privileges from gay student organizations because the university's adherence to Catholic beliefs against homosexuality is protected by the First Amendment. The ruling has been appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals by gay student activists.
Pauline Schneider, the mayor's director of intergovernmental relations, said yesterday that Barry "has made it very clear he wants to see some resolution of the problem to the satisfaction of everyone."