WASHINGTON -- Employment discrimination against homosexuals on Capitol Hill apparently is not practiced by the majority of House members, although 210 of the 435 members declined to pledge they would not discriminate against lesbian and gay employees.
The nation's largest homosexual rights political organization, the Human Rights Campaign Fund, asked U.S. representatives to sign a pledge stating they do not take into consideration sexual orientation in hiring and firing practices.
The group's list of non-discriminating congressmen and women, which was released Friday, shows 225 members have agreed that sexual orientation will not be 'a consideration in the hiring, promoting or terminating of an employee in their respective congressional offices.'
The list included the entire House Democratic leadership and the top Republican in the House, Robert Michel of Illinois. Speaker Thomas Foley of Washington, Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Democratic Whip David Bonior of Michigan all swore against such discrimination.
'The positive response from members was greater than we expected, but we hope to add to the list,' said Tim McFeeley, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund. 'This just shows that one half of the House are good guys.'
The group said it was moved to question members on the issue after the recent controversy sparked by three Oklahoma congressmen who announced they would refuse to hire gay people as employees.
Republican Reps. Jim Inhofe and Ernest Istook and Democratic Rep. Bill Brewster told the Tulsa World in October they would not hire lesbian or gay individuals to work in their congressional offices.
Republican Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Rep. Dick Armey, R- Texas, also a member of the GOP leadership, declined to sign the pledge. Gingrich's office told Daniel Zingale, the gay rights organization's public policy director, that his office based employment decisions on 'merit,' not sexual orientation.
Zingale said some Republican members who did not go on record against discrimination of homosexuals told him privately they would not employ such practices in their offices. He said Rep. Carlos Moorhead, R-Calif., told him, 'I would never discriminate against someone on my staff because of that, but I won't say that.'
Zingale said he was holding out 'hope' that Brewster would reverse his position against homosexuals working in his office.