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Md. County Held Hearing From Public On Disputed English-only Law

FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) -- Frederick County leaders got an earful Tuesday night as they consider repealing a 2012 ordinance that made English the county's official language.

Christie Ileto attended the hearing.

Tuesday, there was a heated debate on whether English should remain Frederick County's official language. Frederick was Maryland's first county to implement an English-only ordinance. Now, three years later, some of its new elected leaders say that was a big mistake.

"It's a wrong message. You might as well post a sign that says non-English speaking people are not welcome here," said one resident. "Why are we doing this?"

Downtown Frederick prides itself on its patriotism and its welcoming atmosphere, but its 2012 ordinance making English the county's official language is sending a message that some strolling the streets here say doesn't translate well.

"It makes us look intolerant, unwelcoming and petty," said Barbara Gordon.

That's why two of the five newly elected County Council members are now pushing to repeal the measure, which requires all county business be conducted in English.

"We have a new government and we're going to set a different tone," said Councilmember M.C. Keegan-Ayer.

Backers of the repeal say the county will continue to do all business in English, as it did before the ordinance passed. They say the ordinance never saved the county money, as promised, and accomplished little but offended a lot.

"It's becoming increasingly harder to attract businesses and employers to Frederick County when they have this perception that we're not welcoming or we're only welcoming if English is your first language," said Councilmember Jessica Fitzwater. "It simply is repealing this negative perception."

"We need to speak English as a first language and then what you do in your own home is your own business," said one woman.

But the repeal is meeting with opposition from outside advocacy groups like ProEnglish, which mailed fundraising letters calling the repeal's sponsors "liberal multiculturists" and "politically correct bullies," saying encouraging immigrants to learn English is the only way they will succeed in this country---and in Frederick, there are some who agree.

"No, I think it should be English only," said one resident.

The County Council will actually vote on the repeal when they next meet on August 18.

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