Dallas’ Longstanding Ban on Gay Police May Be Discarded Soon
DALLAS (AP) _ A lesbian waging a legal battle to get on the Dallas police force may soon get her way.
In Dallas, recruits must take a lie-detector test and are asked about their sexual practices. Homosexuality is a crime under the state’s sodomy law, although other Texas police departments do not automatically bar gay officers.
Recent statements by Police Chief Bill Rathburn and actions by the City Council indicate the department’s long-time ban on homosexuals - a policy that sets Dallas apart from other major U.S. cities - may soon be history.
Last week, Rathburn, who has been chief less than a year, said he was unconcerned about the sexual orientation of his officers - the first such statement ever made regarding the policy.
″What I’m concerned about is the job they do while they’re working,″ Rathburn said. ″Generally, what I want are police officers who will go out and work as hard as they can to protect and serve the residents of Dallas.″
That would be werlcome news for Mica England, who in 1989 was denied consideration as an officer candidate because she admitted she is a lesbian. She sued, charging that the sodomy law and the policy are discriminatory.
The department refuses to say how many candidates have been rejected on the basis of homosexuality. Some gay candidates are presumed to have lied and gotten past the polygraph.
″The policy is that if you can lie and get through the polygraph ... they basically would rather have a person lie than tell the truth about who they are,″ said John Thomas, executive director of the Dallas Gay Alliance.
When the Dallas Police Department recruited applicants in Tulsa, Okla., in 1987, Ms. England took several application tests and a polygraph. She had studied criminal justice at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla.
Ms. England, 27, was asked if she had ever committed a ″deviant″ sex act. The department classifies homosexuality as deviant. The polygraph machine registered her response as a lie, and she admitted she is gay.
A Dallas police official later told her that her sexuality automatically disqualified her.
″I went to college for this. I wanted to be a policeman since high school. The reason I chose Dallas was because I thought it was a sophisticated city and it had a large active gay population,″ said Ms. England, who grew up in Oologah, Okla. ″I didn’t think I’d run into this.″
Initial court hearings on her lawsuit were postponed after the City Council scheduled a hearing on the case next week.
No one has ever been prosecuted under Texas’ 112-year-old sodomy statute, which was overturned by a judge in 1990 and is under appeal by the state.
Twenty-five states have laws prohibiting sodomy between all couples or between same-sex couples. Before 1961, all states had such laws.
However, the Dallas Police Department appears to be the only major police force to enforce the sodomy law among its recruits. Police departments in Boston; Honolulu; Philadelphia; San Francisco; New York; Dayton, Ohio, Albuquerque, N.M.; Phoenix; and Raleigh, N.C., have no restrictions against gay officers.
Even in Texas, Dallas stands alone. The Texas Public Safety Department and police departments in San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth and Austin do not automatically bar homosexuals.