- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

A new Maryland law barring discrimination against homosexuals will go before voters now that opponents have collected enough signatures to force a referendum.
Election officials announced yesterday that the law, which was slated to go into effect Oct. 1, would be put on hold until after the 2002 general election because opponents collected 47,539 valid signatures from registered voters — 1,411 more signatures than required.
The law makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals in employment, housing or public accommodations because of their sexual orientation.
"Many Christians who are Bible readers and believe what the Bible says believe this is a major battle that needs to be fought now," said Take Back Maryland Assistant Chairman Matt Sine, who is also pastor of Allentown Baptist Church in Prince George's County.
Mr. Sine said the grass-roots group now will focus on fund raising to prepare for a print and radio advertising campaign it expects to begin in late spring or early summer 2002.
Activists for homosexual, bisexual and transgender groups say polls showing 60 percent of Marylanders oppose sexual orientation-based discrimination give them added confidence that voters won't overturn the measure.
"The biggest challenge will be to do a lot of education — I think there's been a lot of misinformation out there," said Free State Justice board Chairman Erin Leveton.
Advocates for the legislation said opponents misled some people to sign the referendum petition by telling them the bill conferred special rights on homosexuals.
Maryland Board of Elections Director Donna J. Duncan said five signatures were disqualified at the request of a "handful" of voters who said they had misunderstood.
The measure adds sexual orientation to a state civil rights law that forbids discrimination based on sex, race, religion and other factors.
It was stuck in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which killed a similar measure in 1999, until it was amended to exempt Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and religious organizations as employers if they cited religious objections.
The bill also states it does not endorse homosexual "marriage," domestic-partner benefits or teaching about homosexuality in school, but opponents argue it is the first step in furthering such measures.
Similar laws have been enacted in 11 states and the District, as well as in Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties and in Baltimore.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening will continue to use the "bully pulpit" to advocate the measure for which he has fought since 1999, and is confident the majority of Marylanders will support it, said spokesman Raquel Guillory.

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