ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland House of Delegates voted Thursday to include non- minority males in the definition of socially disadvantaged for minority business preference.
Under Maryland law, socially disadvantaged individuals are people who have been subject to racial, ethnic or cultural bias beyond their control.
This bill would give consideration to individuals, not based on race, but environment for small business contracts. Included would be people who suffer social disadvantage because of long-term residence in an area isolated from society or from causes not common to those who are not socially disadvantaged.
The bill sprang out of a Board of Public Works report recommending narrowly tailoring affirmative-action programs to use race-neutral measures to achieve minority contracting goals, basing eligibility on social and economic disadvantage instead.
The board still would need to develop criteria to determine who is socially and economically disadvantaged.
The debate was lengthy, surprising sponsor Delegate Barry Glassman, R- Harford.
“I didn’t imagine the bill would raise such furor. It just redefines socially disadvantage,” by taking into account geography, lack of access to credit and educational opportunities.
“It makes the Minority Business Preference program more constitutional,” by not just considering race and gender, Glassman said.
Several delegates thought the legislation was a step in the wrong direction.
The issues and problems that create social disadvantages are what need to be addressed, said the bill’s loudest opponent, Delegate Clarence Davis, D- Baltimore.
But Delegate Kenneth C. Montague Jr., D-Baltimore, disagreed.
“It’s not just race (that creates social inequity), but access to resources – to money,” Montague said.
Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, agreed: “I know plenty of white males who have been disadvantaged.”