The Post, in the Sept. 1 editorial "AIDS and Discrimination," tried to take the high road but fell short by a country mile.
On the one hand, the editors argue that AIDS victims already are well protected by the District's Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, education and public accommodations based on physical handicaps as well as race, religion and other characteristics. I agree that if the act fully protected AIDS victims, through the physical handicap clause, there would be no need for an amendment duplicating existing protections.
If The Post had urged that we make sure we are not duplicating protections already in the law, and stopped there, I would say the point is well taken.
But the editors went on to sound alarms about the rights of nonvictims, suggesting that to prohibit discrimination against AIDS victims somehow treads on the rights of nonvictims to guard against infection. I question the logic of contending that the law already prohibits such discrimination while arguing in the next breath that this same prohibition infringes on the rights of others.
AIDS has swept rapidly and broadly throughout our community and many others around the world. The prospect of contracting it is, indeed, frightening. But let's keep our heads and act on the basis of what we know, not on the basis of ignorance and fear of all sorts of imaginary situations.
The Los Angeles city council showed courage in passing an AIDS anti-discrimination ordinance similar to my proposal last month. In another progressive approach, the legislatures of California, Wisconsin and Florida have enacted laws prohibiting employers and insurers from requiring or using the AIDS antibody test to screen employees or applicants for disability, health or life insurance.
As a husband and father of two very healthy and vigorous young children, I certainly would not propose legislation that could endanger their lives or the life of anyone else. It is well established that AIDS is not transmitted through casual contact. Thus there is no rational basis for turning away from whatever legal steps are necessary -- whether through new legislation or through unequivocal rulings on existing law -- to afford AIDS victims the government's full guarantee of protection against discrimination in housing, employment, education and public accommodations.