To his credit, Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.) is unique among District-bashers in that he makes the effort to explain his interference in local politics {Free for All, Oct. 27}. His explanation of why he has inserted his own anti-gay agenda into the D.C. appropriations process was illuminating -- it showed he had no respect for the democratic process, revealed his considerable ignorance of history and showed his bigotry as well.

Armstrong said the Human Rights Act "forced Big Brothers to accept homosexuals and bisexuals as role models for boys." In fact, it simply forbids any group from excluding an individual solely because of sexual orientation. No group is forced to accept anyone who is otherwise unqualified.

Armstrong also misrepresented the application of the law to Georgetown University. He said it interfered with "the free exercise of religion" because it instructed the school to recognize and make available a meeting space for a gay student club. He seemed unconcerned that Georgetown is a quasi-public institution that admits non-Catholics and accepts public funding from both local and federal tax dollars. He didn't mention that the whole dispute arose because Georgetown asked the city to float it a low-interest construction bond, and the city requires that groups with which it does business conform to D.C. laws. He didn't make it clear, either, that the law applies only to the university, not to the church.

Armstrong said the government is "promoting homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle" with its human rights law, but protecting people from prejudice is not the same as promoting their lifestyle.

He added, "Homosexuality is contrary to the moral teachings of almost every civilization in history." That's simply untrue. Homosexuality wasn't considered immoral in either classical Greece or Rome. It's not considered immoral in Buddhism. North and South American Indians institutionalized homosexuality in the form of the berdache until the Spanish conquests wiped out their cultures. In fact, Christianity didn't proscribe homosexuality until the Middle Ages.

Armstrong's prejudice is disturbing, but even worse is his dictatorial refusal to let democracy work. Through tremendous effort gay people have made real strides in the District in the quest for equal protection under the law. Armstrong would wipe that out by fiat. We have no recourse, because we have no vote in Congress.

I did find one point of agreement with Armstrong, although I suspect he does not understand the significance of his statement. Armstrong said, "though the idea seems to have taken hold that homosexuality is just a matter of 'preference,' I do not believe it." Nor do I. I knew I was "different" by age 6. That's certainly too young for "preference" to apply. That's why the word "orientation" rather than "preference" is written in the Human Rights Act. And that's why gay people should remain included in our city's human rights protections.

-- Gregory Sprigg