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N.Y. City Council Passes Gay Rights Bill

March 21, 1986 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ The City Council approved a gay rights bill on Thursday, 15 years after a similar bill was first introduced in the early days of the homosexual rights movement.

The bill, passed 21-14, would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment or public accommodation.

Andrew Humm, head of the Coalition of Gay and Lesbian Rights, said, ″I think it’s a victory for the city.

″This is a bill that benefits everybody. It lets gays be gay and straight people be straight people,″ said Andrew Humm, head of the Coalition of Gay and Lesbian Rights. ″I hope the more strident opponents of the bill ... will give this bill a chance.″

Newspaper surveys before the vote had predicted 19 votes in favor of the measure, but two council members, including the Rev. Wendell Foster, cast unexpected yes votes.

″I find the gay life repugnant. I find it a deviation and sinful,″ Foster said before voting. However, he added, ″In the spirit of Christ, I must love my homosexual brothers and sisters, even though I don’t understand them, they frighten me, they intimidate me.″

About 1,000 people hugged, kissed, danced and sang in Greenwich Village on Thursday night to celebrate the outcome.

″It’s sort of an intangible kind of positive feeling,″ said David Tuller, 29, of Manhattan. ″That it’s OK to be gay, that you can’t be discriminated against, that you have the same rights as anybody else.″

Councilman Noach Dear, who led opposition to the bill, vowed to challenge it in court and if necessary take the issue to the city’s voters in a referendum.

″Overwhelmingly, the people of the city of New York will defeat the gay rights bill,″ Dear said.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York also issued a statement saying it would try to determine what could be done to overturn the measure, which it called ″contrary to the public interest and detrimental to our society.″

The gay rights bill grew out of a police raid on a gay bar, the Stonewall, which set off riots in 1969 and is considered the flashpoint of the movement.

Similar bills have become law in 50 other cities, 12 counties and in Wisconsin.

A gay rights bill was first proposed in New York in 1971, but was largely ignored. Another bill had reached the full council only once before, in 1974, when it lost 22-19.

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Five times afterward, over several years, a gay rights bill was defeated in committee.

This year, with the election of some new council members and the addition of careful phrasing that says the bill is not meant to ″promote″ homosexuality, the campaigning intensified.

Among the leaders of the battle were Roman Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor, who denounced the bill, and Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore, who supported it. Mayor Edward I. Koch, who also was in favor, said he expected to sign the bill into law next week. It would become effective immediately. Violations could be punished by a maximum of a $500 fine and one year in jail.

Council members felt sharp prodding from their constituents, and at least one endured a demonstration at his home.

Among the demonstrators at City Hall were men in prison uniforms who said they would risk jail rather than rent to homosexuals.

Koch said Thursday that after the bill has been law ″for a brief period of time, the opponents will realize that their fears were unwarranted, that this legislation isn’t going to change lifestyles, isn’t going to change the city.

″It is simply civil rights legslation, in three areas, giving people protection so that your personal sexual life, whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual, will no longer be a factor in your getting a job ... or renting an apartment, or going to a restaurant, or a theater or any public place of accommodation.″

But Dear said he thought homosexuals had pressed for the legislation because ″they want society to accept them as normal human beings. I don’t accept that. That’s deviant behavior and they will pass it on to our children.″