Friday, February 29, 2008

America Imprisoned

This is the kind of story I hate to see:
Don't ask the U.S. prison system if this is indeed "the land of the free."

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.

By contrast, in mid 2002 the ratio was 1 in 142, with the prison population surpassing 2 million for the first time. Report: 1 In Every 99 Americans Now Behind Bars

A couple of weeks ago we went around and visited people getting signatures for the anti-transgender petitions. I know they try to portray it as harassment, but in most places we talked with the people holding the petitions and had good, interesting discussions. One thing that came out in conversations with some of them is that they really believe the world is a terrible, scary place, full of dangerous, evil people. That's why we have to allow discrimination against transgender people, because there are so many bad people that some of them are sure to take advantage of any loophole that may be created if transgender people are treated fairly.

So, like, if it was legal for a man to go into the ladies room, there are so many bad, dangerous voyeurs and exhibitionists and predators-and-pedophiles that you just know one of them will go into the ladies room and ... do something. (Of course, it's always been legal to go into whatever restroom you want, but that fact doesn't seem to appear in the syllogism anywhere.)

I'll admit, I can't relate to that kind of thinking. I like the world and the people in it. I suppose something bad can happen to me, but I don't dwell on the possibility. And most of the time decent things happen, good things.

But when you believe the world is a threatening place populated by dangerous people, you have to be careful all the time, because anybody might do anything to you. There is always proof that the world is bad and people are evil, there's always somebody hurting somebody or doing something wrong, and Good People have to do everything they can to keep it under control.

From that point of view, it seems reasonable to lock Bad People up.

So now more than one American in a hundred is imprisoned.

Here are some not-surprising facts:
"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."

The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails -- a total 2,319,258 out of almost 230 million American adults.

The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.

The "leader?" Now there's something to be proud of.

One black guy out of every nine is in prison or jail. Sounds like there are two general explanations for that, either a whole lot of black guys are Bad People, or the group that is in power locks up the group that is not. Talk among yourselves.

There are people -- lots of them -- who think that too many criminals are running free, that there aren't nearly enough Bad People locked up. You can't run for office in this country promising to free people who have been convicted for victimless crimes, on bad evidence, whatever, you can't say in a speech that sentences are too long or that our system of punishment for misdeeds is insane and needs to be thought through from the beginning. If you actually intend to get elected you have to promise to be "tough on crime," e.g., to lock up even more people.

Imagine where that goes, if you let it go on indefinitely. Eventually everybody will be locked up except a few little clusters of self-righteous people, people who live lives so uninteresting that nobody can find a reason to incarcerate them.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Sentinel: Shower-Nuts Lied To People

I'm glad to see this story. I have wondered if there wasn't any law regulating what you can tell people when you get them to sign a petition.

Unfortunately for us, The Sentinel is behind a paywall. Here's the story.
Petition Faces Big Road Blocks

A top attorney with Montgomery County said that some if not all of the signatures gathered by Citizens for a Responsible Government for a petition may be invalid if it is born out that petitioners were misrepresenting the contents of the petition to potential signers.

Citizens as diverse as members of the media, church goers, county council members and their staffers have reported that the CRG, a group responsible for a petition drive to try and get a referendum vote on County Council bill 23-07, which protects transgender individuals from being discriminated against in employment, housing and public accommodations, have been misrepresenting the content of the bill and their petition for several weeks.

True, that. We heard them say all kinds of stuff. They said, This law will require men and women to use the same bathroom. They said it would enable pedophiles and predators to come into ladies rooms. We saw one guy with a sign that said, "Protect our children," though the law has nothing whatsoever to do with children.

Hey, we know of at least one person who signed it because it said "Just the Facts" on it, and they thought it was "Teach the Facts." They asked the petition-pusher, is this Teach the Facts, and were told yes, it was. Another person said they almost signed it, thinking it was us, but caught themselves at the last minute.
The Council passed the bill unanimously in November. CRG claims that the bill grants special rights to transgender people and provides easy access for pedophiles and adult men to women's bathrooms and locker rooms.

When asked if verbally misrepresenting a petition while gathering signatures can invalidate the petition, the attorney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "It could." He also confirmed that he has heard about several people familiar with the bill being misinformed about its content by signature gatherers.

The County Board of Elections is currently evaluating the more than 30,000 signatures gathered by the group. Twenty-five thousand valid signatures are needed to get a question on the ballot in November asking about repealing the bill.

During CRG's push to collect signatures, several people familiar with the legislation said many of the petitioners were inaccurate about what the bill allows. Council President Mike Knapp said he got into an argument with one CRG member gathering signatures at a polling place on Maryland's presidential primary last Tuesday.

"I asked them if they knew what they were promoting," Knapp said.

"They were misinformed in what they were telling people."

Knapp said when he explained that the legislation doesn't say anything about bathrooms or locker rooms to the petitioner, they replied, "I think you're wrong." They asked Knapp how he knew, and Knapp said, "Well, I voted for the bill."

Asked how the petitioner was misrepresenting the legislation, Knapp said, "They were asking, do you want your kids sharing bathrooms with adults of the opposite sex?" Knapp added, "To their credit, the person that was there didn't know a lot about it [the bill]."

Dr. Dana Beyer, Senior Policy Analyst to Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg said she also confronted some signature gatherers last weekend outside of area grocery stores.

By law, every page of the petition must have a summary of the bill printed on it. The summary must be approved by the Board of Elections attorney when the final petition is turned in. A full copy of the bill must also be present at each petitioning site. Board of Election attorney Kevin Karpinski said that it is very rare that someone gathering signatures misrepresents legislation because the summary is right there.

"If there was a misunderstanding, it was on the part of the individual signing the petition," CRG spokeswoman Michelle Turner said.

I am interrupting this narrative to make you think twice about that last line. Do you remember when P.T. Barnum had a sign at the circus that said "Egress" and pointed to a door? Customers who had never seen an "egress" before went through the door and found they were outside and had to pay again to get back in. As Barnum would say, "There's a sucker born every minute." Ms. Turner is also happy to blame the poor sucker who signs the petition thinking he is making children safer, when in fact it's about discrimination against a vulnerable minority. They should have known better, she's saying.
She emphasized the fact that a summary was provided and a full copy of the bill was present at every site.

"It shouldn't be overlooked that petition gatherers were being harassed and intimidated," Turner said.

She added that one transgender individual introduced herself as a senior member of the Montgomery County Council and abused her authority by doing so.

CRG's director Theresa Rickman said she provided volunteers with talking points and literature to pass out, which is all legal. "I think Mr. Knapp is confused," Rickman said. "I don't think he's looked at this bill in the context of what it changes."

"This bill doesn't address the conflict between gender identity and personal privacy," Rickman continued.

"What we think is, if you have male genitalia, you can't go in. I challenge the county attorney to publish a legal opinion that says this legislation doesn't cover bathrooms."

But Knapp says it may be Rickman who is confused, and there could be ramifications when the petitions are evaluated. "I think there are going to be some issues there," Knapp said. "If you have well intentioned, critically minded people who are out there on the basis of misinformation, that's not right."

The Board of Elections plans to have a final signature tally by March 9.

There is currently no law regulating who can go into what bathroom, and never has been. It sounds like the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever are saying they want a different law, one that regulates restroom access.

What they really want is the re-legalization of discrimination against transgender people, and the only way they can get the county to go along with it is by lying to everybody. I will be curious to see how far that gets them.

Fighting Back

Montgomery County recently adopted a law adding gender identity to the existing nondiscrimination law. The Citizens for a Responsible Whatever were anti-gay when the school district was going to teach about sexual orientation, and now they're anti-transgender. They are trying to get a referendum to take back the new law, and they are doing it in a devious way, by telling people it will let men go into ladies rooms. The idea is absurd, and the fact that anybody at all believes them is disheartening for those of you who were not cold-bloodedly cynical to begin with.

I wasn't going to link to this, because I didn't want to give these people any attention, but I want to show you why there is a need for a law preventing discrimination against transgender people. Dana Beyer is a well-known local public figure, a retired physician who has run for office and now works in the County Council offices. She is an activist and well-respected member of the community, and a transgender woman. Look at how the Traditional Values Coalition presents the news that Dana told some CRW petition-pushers that they were about to be evicted from their place in front of a Giant supermarket: Hillary Clinton She-Male Advisor Harasses Maryland Signature Gatherers.

I'm sorry, I can't even comment on that. It simply makes me sick.

Let's look at the other side of it. The community is mobilizing to oppose the efforts of these liars. Here's a story from Wednesday's Gazette:
Advocacy group Equality Maryland is trying to raise $5,000 in three days to match grants it has received to fight opponents of the county’s plan to add transgendered people to its anti-discrimination law.

Last week, opposition group Citizens for a Responsible Government filed more than 32,000 signatures with the Board of Elections to place a referendum on the law on the November ballot. At the beginning of this week, the board had certified 13,000 of the signatures and was still checking the remaining signatures.

Proponents of the county law, including Equality Maryland, have argued that CRG misled residents to acquire the signatures and used scare tactics. CRG established a Web site, sent out robo-calls to residents and collected signatures at various places in the county including grocery stores and churches.

In response, proponents launched their own ‘‘Decline to Sign” campaign and are challenging the signatures in hopes of stopping the referendum. Equality Maryland has received two matching grants totaling $5,000 to help pay for legal bills associated with the challenge. The group has sent out e-mail messages to its members and distribution lists asking for contributions to match the grants.

CRG needs 25,001 certified signatures for a referendum.Group raising cash to fight transgender rights opposition

Even as you read this, there is a team of volunteers, public officials, and lawyers working, preparing to respond to these petitions. It's a well-organized effort, and it costs money.

This is not about men in the ladies locker-room, it's about hate. It's about the citizens of Montgomery County standing up and saying they won't put up with it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trespassing -- Are Those Signatures Valid?

There has been a question about whether the petition-pushers were trespassing when they collected signatures at Giant food stores on the weekend of February 16th and 17th and Monday the 18th, which was President's Day -- or actually on any day besides February 9th and 10th.

The Citizens for a Responsible Whatever have a YouTube video they say shows them being harassed while they collected signatures. Their press release says it was recorded on Monday, February 18th, while signatures were being collected outside the Giant store at the Westwood Shopping Center in Bethesda. On the video Dana Beyer was telling them that an email had been sent out, they were going to be asked to leave, and that the signatures collected there would not be valid. According the CRW, none of this was true. They say they had permission to be there.

We had two comments on this blog yesterday by people we know and trust, an MCPS parent and an MCPS teacher. First, Tish said this:
I phoned the managers of several Giant grocery stores in Montgomery County. They all said the same thing - the company has a policy that allows groups to use the public space on their property only on Saturdays and Sundays on no more than one weekend per month with no more than two people and one table. The store managers I spoke with told me that if the CRG showed up at their stores on Monday they would be asked to leave.

I didn't see Dana saying anything that is not established policy of the Giant grocery chain.

Shortly after that, another comment, this time from Derrick:
I called Giant HQ as well that was their policy (as per Tish's blog roll response).

CRW was trespassing.

Later, Tish elaborated:
The Giant grocery chain has a policy that applies to every community group that wants access to the public space in front of their stores. The policy applies to the Girl Scouts and Boys Scouts when they sell their cookies and popcorn, it applies to the CRW, and it would apply to us if we wanted to set up tables supplying information about what the anti-discrimination code really does. The policy is that a group may have access to the space for one weekend, consisting of one Saturday and one Sunday, per month. The policy does not extend to Monday, even on holiday weekends. I was told told by the store managers that the CRW petitioners had had their days at the stores and that if they came back they would be asked to leave.

The CRW crews who set up at Giant grocery stores more than one weekend in a month and the crews who returned to some Giant stores on Monday were not abiding by the permission granted them. The CRW leadership seems to have failed to tell their volunteers that the permission they received had certain limits which they were obliged to respect.

I'm not sure why that is hard for some CRW supporters to understand.

I'm not going to call Giant to confirm it another time. I know these two people, and their word is good.

There are two points to come out of this. The first point has to do with Dana telling the petition folks that they would be asked to leave. They should have been asked to leave, if the Giant managers were following corporate policy. We don't know if an actual email was sent, but Dana had been told by somebody in the corporate office that one would be, and the email would only have been reiterating company policy. If the managers had followed policy, the petition-pushers would have been asked to leave, email or not.

Second point. The CRW had gathered signatures at Giant stores on the weekend of the 9th and 10th, which was their one weekend per month, okay, that's cool, they had permission to do that. But other days, including the weekend of the 16th and the 17th and Presidents' Day the 18th, they were on company property without permission. If they weren't evicted it is either because the supervisor in charge of the Giant didn't know the company rules, or because that Giant was supporting the re-legalization of gender-identity discrimination.

So the second question concerns the validity of signatures gathered while trespassing. Giant has a very clear one-weekend-per-month rule for using their public space. That's a nice thing to do, they offer something good to the community, it makes sense from a business standpoint and from a good-citizen standpoint. And the policy is clear: one weekend. Not two weekends, not Mondays, even when they're holidays.

The CRW took advantage of the blanket permission for one weekend, as they have the right to do. They stood outside of Giants all over the county -- for two weekends and a Monday that we know about, and probably other days we are unaware of. They were trespassing for all but two of those days, approaching people on private property without permission.

The question is whether signatures collected during the commission of a crime should be considered valid by the Board of Elections. Let's start with gun-to-the-head and work back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Guest Blog: PFLAG To Honor TTF

Guest Blog: Honored by Metro DC PFLAG will be honored on March 8 at the annual Metro DC PFLAG Gala. I thought the readers of the Vigilance Blog should see what PFLAG has to say about TTF. And if you are interested in attending the Gala (see, be sure to sign up to sit at a table.

David Fishback

Community Award

In November 2004, anti-GLBT groups began a campaign to seek to derail the decision of the Montgomery County Board of Education to revise the public school health education curriculum to simply present basic information from mainstream medical and mental health professional associations about sexual orientation. Hearing hateful and ignorant assertions made at a community meeting by people who eventually formed "Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum" (CRC), a group of parents (most of whom had no family connection to the GLBT community) organized to refute the lies and misrepresentations. Thus, at a small restaurant in Wheaton, (TTF) was born.

Through a website ( operated by TTF President Jim Kennedy and a listserve moderated by TTF Treasurer Christine Grewell, TTF kept the community informed about the real issues involved in the attack on the curriculum revisions. Jim's Vigilance Blog ( became a mainstay for information and perspectives on the controversies.

While CRC and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) were able to temporarily halt the curriculum revisions by convincing a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order just before the revisions were to be field tested in May 2005, TTF stayed in battle. Jim Kennedy was appointed to the Board of Education's new Citizens Advisory Committee, formed to review new revisions. And the entire TTF leadership, led by Christine Grewell, organized a successful community forum in September 2005, featuring national experts, including the American Medical Association's point person on GLBT issues, to lay out the facts (

In 2006, TTF joined with Equality Montgomery and the Interfaith Fairness Coalition to sponsor an election forum, attended by all the candidates running for the Board of Education. At that forum, candidates either voiced their support or indicated their lack of support for the approach advocated by Metro DC PFLAG. In November, the winning candidates (all of whom won overwhelmingly) were those who had taken clear positions in support of the Metro DC PFLAG approach.

As the Citizens Advisory Committee worked through the new curriculum proposals (which, in many respects, went into greater depth than those blocked by the federal judge), representatives of PFOX and CRC pushed the anti-GLBT agenda. In 2006-07, as a member of the Committee, JimKennedy, along with PFLAG committee representative Emily Wurtz and other allies, took the lead in calmly, rationally, and effectively explaining how the PFOX/CRC positions were directly at odds with what the mainstream medical community has know for years. Finally, Jim took the lead in convincing the Committee to urge the Superintendent to include in the curriculum the simple statement, supported by all the mainstream medical and mental health groups, that homosexuality is not an illness or a mental disorder. The Superintendent was persuaded, and he successfully urged the Board of Education to include that information in the final revisions, which are now part of the 8th and 10th Grade health education curriculum in the Montgomery County Schools.

TTF has continued to be an active voice in defending efforts of our local elected officials to do the right thing. Last November, the Montgomery County Council extended the protections of the County's anti-discrimination law to transgender people. CRC (now calling itself "Citizens for a Responsible Government") is seeking to play on people's fears and ignorance to lie about the law and bring it to referendum through a petition process. TTF and its members, working with Equality Maryland and Dr. Dana Beyer (also a TTF Board member) in the Decline to Sign campaign, has worked tirelessly to defeat this effort.

TTF has shown how people can stand up for justice.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Big Babies Say Waaa: Channel 7 Broadcasts It As News

The shower-nuts are starting to realize their petitions won't hold up, so they're preparing a way to blame somebody -- they want to say that they were forced to collect invalid signatures because they were being terrorized by transgender gangs. And they have proof! Somebody took about three seconds of video on their cell phone, showing Dana Beyer telling petition-pushers, "An email went out; you're going to be asked to leave. Any petitions gathered today are illegal."

Then the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever put the video on YouTube -- see it HERE -- and sent out a press release, titled, COUNCILWOMAN’S AIDE ON TAPE INTIMIDATING VOLUNTEERS DURING PETITION DRIVE. (Dana works for council member Duchy Trachtenberg.)

Wouldn't you know Channel 7's Greta Kreuz would pick this press release up and broadcast it? Here's Channel Seven:
A new law designed to protect transgendered people is still raising a ruckus in Montgomery County as opponents to the law say it's not what it appears to be.

A youtube post shows a transgendered woman confronting opponents of a new law, not yet in effect, outside a Bethesda Giant. "We were systematically being harassed and people were coming to our stations both at the polls and at the Giant, despite the fact that we had permission to be there," said Dr. Ruth Jacobs with Citizens for Responsible Government.

The woman in the video was Dana Beyer, senor aide to Montgomery County councilwoman Duchy Trachenburg, who authored a new law adding "transgender" to the categories protected from discrimination.

The incident underscores just how ugly and confusing the battle continues to be, especially over how to decide which bathroom transgender people should use.

Proponents insist businesses and health clubs may decide for themselves which bathrooms and dressing rooms transgenders can use, but opponents say the law is vague and poorly worded.

There is no religious exemption in the law, so church-affiliated schools, for example, could be used [sic, apparently means "sued"] for not hiring transgender teachers. So many potential problems, opponents say, they hope to take the issue directly to the people before the law goes into effect.

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 13 states, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and 90 other local jurisdictions have banned discrimination against transgender people. Transgender Law Faces Stiff Opposition

Greta just can't do enough to carry water for these nuts. Channel 7 is the only local media outlet that has taken stenography from the shower-nuts. This is their second time.

First of all, the law is exactly what it appears to be. The idea that you can hide something in a county law is absurd. Anybody can read it. If there's something there we'll see it: there isn't. This kind of conspiracy theory about invisible things is not hard to investigate or refute. Download the bill, read it.

Further, the new law doesn't add "transgender," it adds "gender identity." While she was saying "transgender," viewers actually saw a copy of the bill with the words "gender identity" underlined.

Go ahead and watch that YouTube video, just to see what they consider "harassment." It may be that Dana was incorrect, and that that Giant did not get an email, but she had been told by Giant management that an email was being sent. Hey, she may have even been incorrect about the legality of petition signatures that are gathered while trespassing, maybe they're okay. "Being incorrect" is not a crime or a violation of anybody's civil rights. The Citizens for a Responsible Whatever act like they want to sue over this, calling it a civil rights violation blah blah blah. As I have said, we have numerous reports of petition-pushers harassing and assaulting passersby, I don't think that's a road they want to go down. This press release is a desperate face-saving move.

I am sad to see that this really is Channel 7's kind of "news," where all you have to do is re-write it. It's not that anything happened -- our telling of the engagements with the petition-pushers certainly had a lot more information in it, but it didn't come right to their fax machine, so they didn't bother with it. These encounters, which happened more than a week ago, weren't "Channel 7 news" until the CRW sent the station a press release. And that is just sad. A whole week of "Yay" press coverage, and then these same guys blow it again.

The "news story" is that somebody posted a three-second video on YouTube, showing Dana Beyer talking to their petition peddlers.

To Channel 7, if the CRW says it's news, it's news.

Checking the Petitions

I was sick this weekend. Had a sore throat through the last half of the week, and then Saturday I got hit with laryngitis. That is the weirdest thing. My throat felt better, in fact I felt better generally, but when I opened my mouth to talk nothing came out. I was supposed to play some music Sunday but canceled it, since I couldn't sing and didn't feel very good.

I missed Saturday, but Sunday afternoon I went down to help the task force review petitions. You know the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever brought thirty-two-thousand-something petitions to the Board of Elections to force a referendum to re-legalize gender-identity discrimination. You really ought to go to their web site to see their happy pictures: They were so proud of themselves, making the world a better place for moral people and all.

I sat with about thirty other people in a sixth-floor office near Thomas Circle, looking at those petitions. They were arranged in stacks along one wall, where the first stack was "Signatures" and other stacks had to do with dates, certification, and other information on the petitions. I was the new guy, I only did signatures. Each petition has up to five signatures on it, the person's name signed and then printed. The signed name has to match the printed name, that's pretty much what the signature check is about. The signature should be legible, if it's not we flag it so somebody can compare the signature to the one in the election board's database. I took a packet of petitions and went through each one, checking each signature. You wouldn't think it was that hard, signing your name and then spelling the same thing.

I'm not going to spill the beans on what has been found. There's a lot more to do, so far the group only has the first thirteen-thousand-something petitions -- I was told the Board of Elections had to swear somebody in to take the originals to Kinkos to make copies, I thought that was interesting. Now the volunteers will go through and record things that look wrong, and then the lawyers will go through and look at those flagged things. Ones they determine to be bad will be reported to the Board of Elections. I don't know how the legal stuff goes, I suppose the other side can appeal, too, or perhaps a settlement can be reached between the two sides. I am really not the expert on legal stuff, don't take my word for it.

I sat at a small table with three other people. It was pleasant, everybody was busy. Sometimes somebody let out a little groan, or a mild "oath," as the writers used to say, when they got through a page and didn't find anything. Or somebody'd say, "Ah, that's two in a row," meaning two pages without errors, but that didn't happen very often.

I didn't talk with the big guys about what the plan is. I expect that at some point the lawyers will want to file something with the Board of Elections, challenging the bad signatures that are found. Nobody knows yet if there will be enough to prevent the referendum or what. There are some other things going on that I did hear about, I'll let you know if any of that comes to be. This is all part of that big process we call "democracy." Yes, you can petition for a referendum, but interested parties have the right to challenge if there are grounds. And they have the right to see if there are grounds.

In other news, I see the CRW is hinting that they are thinking about suing somebody, saying they were harassed while they were gathering signatures. We see HERE that they have issued a press release, but I don't see it on their web site.
... They got volunteers thrown off mall property by complaining to mall managers. Twice, police had to be summoned by store managers to stop transgendered gangs from harassing people attempting to sign the petitions.

Citizens for a Responsible Government released a press release today announcing they are considering filing a civil rights lawsuit because of the extent of the harassment. Such tactics "are commonly used by totalitarian governments. There is no place for this in Montgomery County," attorney John Garza said.

I'm thinking they might want to be a little careful about going down that road, especially since we have numerous reports of people being assaulted and verbally abused by their petition-pushers. The smart thing for them would be to try to generate a little sympathetic publicity and then let it drop.

But you gotta give them credit for the idea of "transgendered gangs." I'm sure they got a laugh out of it when they thought of the phrase, but ... no, that's for The Onion, not reality. Also, they must know how it looks to claim to have been chased out of Dodge by "transgender gangs." I'm just saying, their redneck buddies might see some humor in it.

It seems to me that "complaining to mall managers" is pretty much a fair thing to do, if it works. I talked to a few store managers, pointed out to them how it made their store look, explained the background of the situation. Most managers decided to throw them out whether we talked to them or not. I had one manager let one person stay, but he came out and turned away back-ups. Another one just told me they had permission, and as far as he was concerned that was that. All in all, it was worth a try.

I imagine that the next thing will be a meeting between the lawyers, and something filed with the elections board. I thought I heard the word "press conference" yesterday, so I imagine there will be an announcement when something happens.

Here are a few pictures from the petition checking.

And one to throw fear into the heart of every true shower-nut -- a unisex bathroom! Mwah-ha-ha-hee-hee-hee:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yay For The Press VIII: The Blade

The news reporting on the shower-nuts' petition drive has been wonderful. Some media outlets lean one way, some lean the other, but almost none of them have fallen for the perverted-men-in-the-ladies-room frame that the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever used to scare people into signing their petition. If they continue to present the facts to the public and there is a referendum, then people can vote intelligently, one way or the other.

Debate over the federal employment nondiscrimination act has highlighted both solidarity and differences between gay and transgender populations. The fact is, they're two different things. Sexual orientation has to do with who you feel attracted to, gender identity is about who you feel you are. Different as they are, both groups suffer similar effects as sexual minorities. As I have said here before, I think a lot of the discrimination against gay people actually comes from gender role nonconformity, not their bedroom behavior. Macho lesbians and limp-wristed gay guys who wiggle when they walk have a lot worse problems than "straight-looking" gay people. So as much as some like to think the two things are separate, there is considerable overlap, especially in prejudice and discrimination. All in all, it has seemed that the gay community favors adding gender identity to legal nondiscrimination wording, if only because transgender people are in fact a vulnerable population that suffers from terrible discrimination.

This week the area's gay newspaper, The Blade, reviewed events in our local controversy. They got some new information, too.
A new law barring discrimination against transgender people in Montgomery County, Md., is in jeopardy, after a group opposed to the measure submitted a petition that could force a referendum on the issue.

Citizens for a Responsible Government submitted thousands of signatures Tuesday to county officials seeking a referendum on the law that prohibits “discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, cable television service and taxicab service on the basis of gender identity.”

But county officials — required to suspend the law at least until the 32,087 signatures can be verified — said the organization advanced its cause under false pretenses.

Montgomery County Council President Mike Knapp said opponents of the law wrongly represented it as allowing men into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

“The misinformation being put out about this law really troubles me,” he said. “We guaranteed that certain people in our county will have the same rights as other residents — and that is all we did. Those who intentionally mislead people about what this bill means will have to explain what is behind their actions, but we want everyone to know exactly what this law is about.”

Knapp said the law allows the operators of public bathrooms and locker rooms to continue to separate their facilities based on gender identity or biological gender. This allows a restaurant owner, for example, to require a biological male presenting as a female to use the men’s bathrooms. Md. trans rights law in jeopardy

This term "biological male" might not be the most solidly grounded concept ever, though the real problem may be that our language assumes that people's minds and genitals will agree, and that there are certain kinds of acceptable explanations for things. Some intersex conditions are obviously "biological," but in cases where genitalia indicate one sex and the individual subjectively experiences the other, what is the alternative to "biological?" It's not "social," and it's not a personal choice. It's certainly not a "moral" decision that a person makes. It seems to me that there is most likely a -- I hate to keep using quotes like this, but the language really isn't well-designed for discussion of this topic -- "biological" cause, whether it has been identified or not.

Knapp then is not talking about transgender people, he's talking about people like the man from Citizens for a Responsible Whatever who go out in dresses and try to use the ladies restrooms. I hate to think this all about that one guy, that they're just trying to figure out what to do with their guy in the blue dress at Rio. Because ... in all my years of living, I have never been in a place where there was a question about what bathroom somebody was supposed to use. Maybe it would be easier for them just to kick him out than to drag us all through this.

By the way, we haven't speculated publicly about which one of them went into the gym at Rio in a dress, but some of the emails have been hilarious.

There is a bigger point here. Petition signatures were gathered using false information. I heard their petition-pushers say things like "This law will force men and women to use the same bathroom." One guy had a sign that said "Protect our children," though there is nothing in the bill about children -- everybody wants to "protect our children," who wouldn't sign a petition to do that?

I'm afraid this reveals a fundamental vulnerability of our democratic process: democracy doesn't work for stupid people. If you're going to let the citizens run things, then you have to count on them educating themselves about the issues and being smart enough to filter out the garbage and make good decisions. You walk out of a store and a guy says, "Sign here to protect our children from predators in the ladies room," you really should know something about it before you put your signature down. Because the law requires some checks on the signatures, validating it was really you who signed, that you're a registered voter, etc., but there's no way they can x-ray your brain to see if it was on at the time.
Theresa Rickman of Citizens for a Responsible Government said a strict reading of the law, however, indicates that a biological male presenting as a female could insist on using the women’s bathroom.

She said the organization misrepresented nothing when it collected signatures and welcomes an open discussion with county officials.
“Name the time and the place and we’ll be happy to debate the law,” Rickman said. “We are happy to meet them anywhere and discuss it.”

Tuesday’s petition filing indefinitely suspended the law, which passed the Council unanimously in November. It did not become effective Wednesday, as was expected, and could remain suspended until a public referendum is held.

Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg said the law would have a significant impact on transgender people living and working in Montgomery County.

“As the last few months have shown, transgender citizens can be the target of unpleasant invective and misguided fears,” she said. “What this bill does is simply preserve the basic rights transgender people should enjoy along with everyone else — to live and work day to day with dignity, respect and equal protection under the law.”

The shower-nuts would be happy to debate the law now -- where were they while it was being debated in the first place? Were they proposing wording, meeting with council and staff?

America works by a really cool process of representative democracy. We elect people, they conduct legislative, judicial, and executive functions for us. If we don't like them, we elect somebody different. Besides the inherent checks and balances within the system, public officials are motivated to be responsive to the public. If you want to participate in the development of a new law, all you have to do is pick up the phone. The people who make up the CRW believe themselves to live outside that system, however. They refuse to participate in the established processes, and instead try to overthrow the results of everyone's hard work. They believe themselves to be persecuted, they believe elected officials are corrupt and conspiring against them, they believe the system of American democracy is incapable of functioning. I'm as cynical about politicians as the next guy -- more, probably -- but I have had to admit that the Founding Fathers came up with the best system I can imagine. It prevents tyranny by handing power over to the people, but the people don't have to decide every little thing. You want a referendum on how close you can park to a stop sign? No, let somebody else decide that, and we'll live with it. If it's too far, we'll debate the issue and elect a person next time who would propose parking closer. It's a beautiful system, not a perfect one obviously but that's because people are not perfect.

The Blade predictably takes a view that these latest developments are dangerous. Rights could be lost. But again, I can't say this enough, it is really heartening to see the media of the community presenting this story objectively. The Blade writes to its audience, but it is accurate, it has facts, they interviewed Theresa and got her quotes in there, as well as Duchy and others. These guys whining complaining about men in the ladies locker-rooms are trying to hijack reality, they want to scare people and they do succeed in scaring people who aren't paying attention. What people need is clear information, facts, and our media have been great about giving the facts to them. The CRW's mission is simply to force conformity to their expectations. It's plain old-fashioned bigotry, and most people in our county won't go along with them if they understand what the issue is, so we're counting on the press to keep people knowledgeable.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Yay For The Press VII: NewsChannel 8

NewsChannel 8 has a little story about the shower-nuts turning in their petitions.
Opponents of a law that protects transgender people from discrimination in Montgomery County say they have enough signatures for a referendum that seeks to overturn the measure.

Volunteers working with the organization Citizens for a Responsible Government say they turned in more than 31,000 signatures Tuesday to the county's Board of Elections office. The board will put the repeal of the measure to county voters on November's ballot if 25,000 of those signatures are legible, from registered voters and contain valid addresses and birthdates.

The group worries the law gives male cross-dressers access to women's restrooms and locker rooms. The county's anti-discrimination code, however, makes exceptions for areas considered "distinctly private or personal." Group Seeks to Overturn Transgender Law

Yes, they are Opponents of a law that protects transgender people from discrimination. That is as straightforward as you can put it. And they "say they have enough" signatures. True, that.

This is not a big report, of course, just a few sentences, but again we are seeing the press handling this in a professional and objective manner. Yes, it's a news story, petitions with signatures were turned in, they may force a referendum, they may have enough of them. It deserves reporting.

I'll tell you, out of all this, the worst stomach turner was CNN back in November. See it HERE. At the bottom of the screen is a banner that says:

That is just how the shower-nuts want the media to present the story, this is their frame, absolute ridiculosity. Of course this law has nothing to do with which bathroom transgender people should use, but CNN didn't care, they just took the CRW's talking points and printed them. It's amateurish and embarrassing. The announcer (you can't call somebody like that a "reporter," can you?) is visibly annoyed with Duchy Trachtenberg, who refuses to answer the question, which bathroom should transgender people use? It isn't a question, she is right not to get sucked into that particular sewer. Transgender women use the ladies room, transgender men use the men's room. They do that now, and they'll do it when the new law goes into effect.

And I know there's no such word as "ridiculosity." But there should be.

Our local media have been wonderful with this. Some lean one way, some the other, that's cool, that's how the news works. Nobody -- well, almost nobody -- has pretended that this is about bathrooms.

Good going, NewsChannel 8. And I suppose we should thank CNN for demonstrating how badly this could be handled. And Channel 7.

Yay For The Press VI: NBC4

Generally I have to say that through the years of the sex-ed controversy the TV coverage has been worse than the print media. You hate to see it, a group of nutty people, their faces all red as they describe their moral outrage over a health class, surrounded by television cameras, while rational people and policy-makers stand in the background, available for answering questions but not so indignant, not so red-faced, and no cameras pointed at them. When the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever staged their hoax at Rio, only Channel Seven actually sent somebody to cover it, they repeated the CRW talking points on the air. They told their viewing audience that a man in a dress went into the ladies room, and that it was a "test of the new law." Just what the CRW told them to say.

So I have been holding my breath, waiting to see how the media, including television, would handle the latest noise-making about the petitions. I cynically expected them all to repeat the talking-points. But no, they proved me wrong, nearly everybody so far has been fair, objective, unbiased.

I can't tell from the web site if Channel Four actually did an on-the-air broadcast of this or not, but here's their online version of the story:
ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Opponents of a new Montgomery County law protecting transgender people from discrimination have gathered 32,000 petition signatures, enough apparently to put the issue to voters.

The group that organized the petition drive, Citizens for a Responsible Government, said the law protects only a few people while infringing on the privacy rights of many others.

The law protects transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, and taxi and cable service. It was scheduled to take effect Wednesday but now appears headed for a voter referendum in November.

Critics believe the law threatens privacy in public restrooms, but supporters said the claim is a scare tactic and the law does not mandate changes in restrooms. Transgender Discrimination Law Appears Headed For Vote

Perfect. Gives the facts, tells the story, it's to the point. The narrative focuses on the shower-nuts, as well it might since they were filing their petitions, but the red herring argument does not sway them. They give it and move on.

Good for Channel Four, for reporting the news accurately and clearly, even when there are potential sensational sound-bytes to exploit. Let's hear it for responsible journalism!

Yay For The Press V: WTOP

Yesterday I was telling a friend about the petitions to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people, and he said, "Oh yeah, I heard about that on the radio, on WTOP. They were saying something about somebody going in the ladies shower room and stuff, sounded pretty bad." I told him that the Citizens for a Responsible Government had bought some ads on WTOP, he must have heard those, but he insisted it sounded like a news story, though he had wondered why they were taking sides on it.

Today I found WTOP's actual news story, dated yesterday. Here you go:
February 21, 2008 - 9:06am
ROCKVILLE, Md. - One Montgomery County politician says it's time for some straight talk on a law dealing with gender identity.

"Nothing is any different than it was before," says Montgomery County Council President Mike Knapp. "People can feel safe and confident that they can walk into the restroom . Their safety is as protected as it ever was."

Knapp is fed up with a campaign that suggests that your safety is at risk in a public bathroom because the county enacted a new law that says you may not discriminate against someone based on his gender identity in employment, housing, cable TV, taxi service or public accomodations.

"Each individual facility still has the discretion, as it did before, to determine who and how the restrooms are used," Knapp says.

Opponents with Citizens for Responsible Government insist the law would allow gender mixing at places, such as your local pool.

The group says the County Council is out of step with residents.

The group has gathered 32,000 petition signatures, enough possibly to put the transgender issue to voters in November. The county board of elections is in the process of vetting the petitions now.

The group says the law protects only a few people while infringing on the privacy rights of many others.

Knapp says the group has spread fear and misinformation. Transgender Law Won't Affect Bathroom Safety

Again -- I am really impressed with the coverage this issue has gotten from the local media. This is a well-done story. Yes, it takes "our" side a little bit, in that it rebuts the shower-nuts (hey, that has a nice sound to it, doesn't it?), but it does carry both sides and it does not parrot the scare line about the perverts in the showers.

I haven't heard the ads the CRW bought on that station, but apparently they are made to sound like real news. That's low, of course, but we're not surprised. I am a little surprised that WTOP would allow a nutty group like that to call their journalistic integrity into question. I don't listen to talk radio, but I do get the RSS feed from their web site, and it seems to me that WTOP tries to do good, professional reporting, as seen in the story above.

Yay For The Press IV: The Baltimore Sun

I can't tell you how refreshing this is! The Baltimore Sun has a story yesterday about the CRW's petition drive. Real news, real reporting. This one is long, with a lot of details, including some interesting stuff about Baltimore's gender-identity nondiscrimination law and how it has worked out.

Because it's so long, I will take pieces here -- follow the link for the rest of the story.
A Montgomery County measure intended to protect transgender people appears headed to a voter referendum, setting up a potentially divisive debate over how far anti-discrimination laws should extend.

The recently passed law protects transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, and taxi and cable service, and was supposed to go into effect yesterday. But it is on hold after opponents gathered 32,000 signatures in a bid to put it on the ballot this fall.

Citizens for a Responsible Government, the group that paid for thousands of computerized calls to county households to further the petition drive, says the measure infringes on the privacy of most citizens while protecting just a few. Transgender law at risk

If our community can debate this question on the merits of the issue itself, I have no concerns. It may be that once some thoughts have been batted around, people decide that it isn't time to add gender identity to the nondiscrimination bill. I doubt it, but it can happen. Whatever the conclusion, if the debate is open and reasonable, I'm fine with the it. If the media were to report that the bill was about pedophiles in the ladies room, there could be no debate, but it looks like that isn't going to happen. We are blessed with good journalists who see the obvious smokescreen and are committed to reporting this correctly.

The Sun lets the shower-nuts have their word:
"Our primary objection is the impact this has on every other citizen in Montgomery County," said Michelle Turner, a spokeswoman for the group. "This legislation affects or was written for less than 1 percent of the population, with total disrespect for the safety, well-being and rights of everyone else."

Public restrooms, for example, will no longer offer real privacy for each gender, the group says.

But officials say the new law, which the County Council passed unanimously and County Executive Isiah Leggett signed, does not force changes at public restrooms. Furthermore, they say the bathroom issue is an old scare tactic that unfairly takes attention away from the measure's point: to protect people whose internal sense of gender and biological gender at birth do not match.

Sounds like "officials" are reading the TTF blog. I can't wait to hear Ike Leggett say something about "shower-nuts" on the evening news!

Skipping a little ...
Once viewed as a relatively straightforward matter of biological category, gender has evolved into a far more complicated subject. Transgender is an umbrella term that can include transsexuals as well as people with a fluid identity that transcends traditional gender categories.

Montgomery County and Baltimore City are among about 95 jurisdictions and 13 states that have passed laws protecting transgender people, and the General Assembly has considered extending the protections across Maryland.

And skipping further, an important quote from the viewpoint of a city that's already passed us:
In 2002, when O'Malley was Baltimore's mayor, the City Council unanimously passed its own version of a transgender anti-bias law. About a dozen people have filed complaints with the Baltimore Community Relations Commission since then, according to commission director Alvin O. Gillard, but the bathroom problems that Montgomery County critics have forecasted have not come to pass.

"If you're committed to fairness and equality, you can find a way to accommodate everyone and protect their privacy," Gillard said. "It's disappointing to know that you're refighting battles that you thought that you'd already won."

There's more. Follow the link.

The Sun is able to talk about the shower-nuttiness, they don't have to hide from it but they put it in perspective. Again, if the discussion on this topic can be level-headed and fact-based, I have all the confidence that the people will decide the right thing. Thanks to Rona Marech at The Sun for excellent and thorough reporting on this.

Yay For the Press III: The Examiner

Our web site was originally committed to a single topic. We talked about the development and implementation of a new sex-ed curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland. Normally there's no reason to have a web site when a school district puts together some new classes. We organized to support the district when it came under attack by a group of anti-gay extremists who initially wanted to recall the entire school board because the new curriculum was going to teach students about sexual orientation. Their reasoning was irrational and misinformed, they were riding the wave of the 2004 "mandate" for the religious right, and some of us did not want to see that stuff in our county.

After three years of fighting, I think we can almost say, knock on wood, that they've lost. They did everything to undermine the curriculum development process, but the school district with community support pushed on through, and now our kids are learning some important facts about sexuality.

Recently the very same group of people decided that the most important thing in the world is to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people. The Montgomery County Council recently passed a bill adding the words "gender identity" to the existing list of qualities that you could not use for discrimination in hiring, access to public accommodations and services, etc. The list had race, religion, sex, and other things, and the county added the words "gender identity."

The group changed its name from Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum to Citizens for a Responsible Government. It's the exact same handful of people -- are there seventeen of them, really? That sounds high. Anyway, they have the backing of the national rightwing groups, the Family Blah-Blah groups and others, and they are now re-framing the new nondiscrimination law to make it sound like it will allow men to go into ladies rooms and women's locker-rooms. That's ridiculous, but it does get people's attention, they will sign a petition against that.

Instead of participating in the lawmaking process, the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever waited till the bill was going to be voted on, then got mad about it. They sent nasty letters to the County Council, one Republican leader shouted out "Heil Hitler!" during a council meeting, they held gigantic protests with attendance breaking into the double digits. They decided to set up a referendum to take back the new law. They stood in front of stores telling people that the law would require men and women to use the same bathrooms, would you sign here? The new law will make it impossible to keep pedophiles and predators away from our children, will you sign here? They got thirty-two thousand-something signatures, where they needed twenty-five thousand. The Board of Elections has to validate them, and if there are really 25,000 good ones, this law will go to referendum in November, to be voted on by the citizens.

In the meantime, our mission has shifted, as we play whack-a-mole trying to keep these nutty people from screwing up our community.

Readers of this blog already know about all that. I think it's good sometimes to fill in, for new readers.

I expected the press to fall for the tricks. I fully expected to see stories every day about the "problem" of transgender people knowing what bathroom to use, of the difficulty of telling the difference between a transgender woman and a pedophile. And I was wrong. So far the media have been amazingly good about reporting accurately on a story that has a lot of potentially eye-catching headlines in it.

The CRW staged a hoax at a gym at Rio a while back, where one of their men put on a dress and went into the women's locker-room and back out. Channel Seven news raced right out there and reported on the "test of the new law." The Examiner's Baltimore edition, at least, carried the story. I think that's all. I held my breath and waited, but our news people are going to be professional about this. They will wait until there is an actual news story.

And now, I guess, there is one: the CRW turned in their signatures. Something happened.

I can't say I agree with the headline writer on this one, but The Examiner -- a paper that got things embarrassingly wrong on the sex-ed story -- has a good, credible accounting of the situation in this morning's edition:
WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Residents of famously liberal Montgomery County may have enabled a local conservative group with a losing track record to become the first group in recent memory to win a ballot referendum on a new county law.

If 25,000 of the 32,000 signatures obtained this week by Citizens for a Responsible Government are deemed valid by local elections officials, it would be the first time in the past 10 to 15 years that anyone in Montgomery County forced a ballot referendum. In this case, voters could repeal a new law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people.

Group spokeswoman Michelle Turner said the newly formed Citizens for a Responsible Government is an “offshoot” of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, the group that unsuccessfully petitioned the state Board of Education and a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge to ban courses that teach students homosexuality is a biological trait.

They lost both times, but Turner said the group has a better chance with voters than with the council or the courts.

“It speaks less to our success as a group than to the discontent citizens of Montgomery County have with their elected leaders,” Turner said. Setbacks seem to strengthen conservative social group

I find this an interesting theme. It's one they like -- remember, they didn't want to influence the sex-ed curriculum process, they wanted to recall the entire board. This radical group holds the philosophy that elected leaders cannot be trusted to run things. In their world, "the people" should vote on everything, everything should be majority rule. Coincidentally, the group is mostly composed of white Protestants. There's a Catholic and a few Mormons, and I have seen black people at some of their meetings, but pretty much this is a group that would like to see the majority favored in things. Their view of democracy is based on an essentially un-American mistrust of the wisdom of voters and the election process, they get their strength by undermining the rule of law.
Turner said the group has local donors pouring money into the campaign, but wouldn’t say exactly how much it has received or give names of people who have donated. She did say the amount was more than $10,000 and less than $100,000, and helped fund automated calls to every Montgomery County home phone number available.

Jerry Pasternak, who served as special assistant to former County Executive Doug Duncan, said the group’s success in gathering signatures did not surprise him.

“Getting it on the ballot is not an indication that you have the majority of voters behind you,” Pasternak said. “It is just an indication that you have an ability to organize and collected the requisite number of signatures in the required time frame.”

Supporters of the transgender measure say they believe the petitioners were successful because of misinformation, accusing some signature-gatherers of saying the new law, which only prohibits discrimination, would actually allow men in women’s bathrooms.

“Sadly there are a lot of groups out there that prey on fear,” Council President Mike Knapp said.

Seems to me The Examiner leans a little toward the CRW's side, but that doesn't bother me. The fact is, there is nothing here about bathrooms and locker-rooms, about pedophiles, predators, or perverts. In fact, this is a little funny, they don't say until the next-to-last paragraph what the bill is about at all. I imagine an editor should have some splainin to do on that, whatever -- they didn't puppet the shower-nuts' version of the story.

And for that, I congratulate The Examiner.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yay For The Press II: The Sentinel

I am so proud of how the press has handled the campaign to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people.

The Sentinel had a news story and a part of an editorial about this. Here's what editor Brian Karem said about it in his opinion piece:
... Speaking of reading, what is the chance we will actually take the chance to read a petition before we sign it?

Apparently the people at the Citizens for Responsible Government are counting on the fact that you won't because they've got more than 27,000 signatures (so they claim) to repeal a county ordinance that will - according to them - let transgender people as well as pedophiles and transvestites to enter whatever gender restroom they choose.

The only problem, of course, is that the legislation doesn't say anything like that.

Just read the legislation. It's in black and white.

When you bring this up to the good people of the CRG they will squint their eyes, rub their ears and say things like "Well the current law is vague."

No it isn't. The CRG and their pointy-head minions may have their collective hindquarters buried in the sand next to their faces, but the simple fact is that if you read the legislation there's no need for these people to be hassling voters trying to get a referendum on the November ballot.

I admire their pluck, being out there, but detest their questionable methods to promote their agenda.

Just read.

(Read it HERE) It was generous of him to "admire their pluck." I wouldn't go that far, I think they ought to find something constructive to do.

The Sentinel also carried a news story about this. And listen, this is really heartening. They report the news story accurately. I can't tell you how glad I am to see the professionalism of our local media. There is a lot of blood in the water here, staged hoaxes, allegations and excitement, and so far nobody has fallen for it.

I thought you had to pay to read The Sentinel but it appears that part of the paper is outside the paywall. Maybe it's just for a while. I found this story HERE
Several confrontations this weekend at area Giant grocery stores between petitioners and transgender individuals highlighted the building tension between Citizens for A Responsible Government and the transgender community over legislation passed in November and the petition to put it up for a referendum vote.

CRG says it collected more than the 25,000 certified signatures needed by Feb. 19 in order to get a question on the ballot this November about whether the county should repeal bill 23-07. Michelle Turner, the group's spokesperson, said the tally is 27,900 and rising.

Despite being refuted by County officials, CRG maintains that the bill opens public bathrooms and locker rooms to pedophiles and cross-dressing men. County council members, who passed the bill unanimously in November, and County Executive Isiah Leggett say the bill does no such thing.

"The amount of misinformation out there is troubling," Council President Mike Knapp said. "I even got into a dispute at a polling location on Tuesday. The reality is this bill did nothing to change the existing law that pertains to restrooms or locker rooms. They're (The CRG) getting permission to be places based on misinformation."

The misinformation Knapp referred to is a key disagreement in the debate. The bill contains no language relating to public restrooms or locker rooms, but the CRG says the bill doesn't specifically deny access to these places.

"The preexisting law never applied to public bathrooms and locker rooms," Knapp said. "It's still up to the person who runs the facility to decide who is allowed in what bathroom."

Dr. Dana Beyer, a Senior Policy Analyst to Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, and Marianne Arnow, both transgender individuals, met head-on with members of CRG at area grocery stores over the weekend where members of the group were making a final push for signatures to their petition.

Beyer said that she and a few other supporters went to grocery stores where CRG members were collecting signatures to educate people about what they were signing. "In all but one place we talked to the management of these grocery stores and the management had them removed," Beyer said.

The only store where the manager claimed the group had a right to be there was in Langley Park, Beyer said. "He was wrong, but we couldn't convince him of that," Beyer said.

This telling of the story focuses a little more on the action, the conflicts, okay, that's a pretty good angle for this story.

By the way, I was out there this weekend, too, and most places we went the people with the petitions were nice, we had some pleasant conversations with them. We didn't agree on the issues, but the only place I saw anger was at the Arliss Giant. Well, the lady at the Container Store wasn't very friendly and wouldn't talk to us. But like, we helped them carry their petitions and their table out to the car at the Fallsgrove Safeway, and Maryanne made good friends with them at several places. Mostly it was not confrontation, they wanted signatures and we wanted to give out information. Some people signed their petitions, some listened to us.

There's more. Go read.

Again, this controversy over the nondiscrimination bill has all kinds of opportunities for cheap journalism. I'm afraid I was not optimistic about the media's ability to resist the temptation of a sensational but meaningless story, and I have to say that so far the coverage has been really good.

I won't try to predict, but I do hope the rest of the media will live up to the standard set by The Gazette and The Sentinel. They've shown it is possible to write a good informative story, giving both sides of the issue and some exciting details, introducing some colorful characters, with vivid and engaging quotes ... the whole thing. There's a lot here, let's see our journalists give this a good professional working-over.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yay For The Press: The Gazette

Listen, I have said a lot of nasty things about the media here, but they have been really good through this latest little adventure. We saw Channel 7 report a hoax that was staged for them by the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever, and The Examiner, at least the Baltimore edition, carried it, but just about everybody else has refused to be fooled by the red herring "bathroom" story. Uh, Fox News presented the bathroom story the other day, but who's surprised by that?

There's a story here, and we expect the media to carry it. The main story -- the news story -- is that the Montgomery County Council passed a bill extending the nondiscrimination law to cover gender identity, and a group has gathered petition signatures that may force a referendum in the November elections, if enough signatures are validated by the Board of Elections. There will be flurries of activity around that story, I'm sure there will be lawyers and activists, ahem, on both sides of the issue, personalities and events. But this is the story: a new bill, opposition, a possible referendum. Secondary to this, the issue of discrimination, the human-interest angle regarding those people who have changed from one sex to another, and investigations into the organized groups who despise them and oppose them.

The other part of the story is most interesting, at least to me, and that is the framing of the story. The group that is protesting the bill has framed the issue in terms of the use of bathrooms and locker-rooms, in particular the possibility that men, either transitioning male-to-female transgender persons or heterosexual voyeurs, exhibitionists, predators, pedophiles, etc., will be able somehow to go into ladies rooms by taking advantage of this law. That group wants people to be afraid of this possibility, and to vote against the bill by vividly imagining an event that one, is not prohibited under existing law, two, almost never happens, and three, will not be affected by the new law. Peeping, exhibitionism, and molestation are all prohibited by law, no matter whether you are transgender or not, and that won't change.

Supporters of the bill frame the discussion by noting that the bill is actually about discrimination. It protects a small and vulnerable segment of our society from discrimination in hiring and use of public accommodations and services. If a transgender person goes into a restaurant, they cannot be refused service because they violate somebody's expectations. If they try to hail a taxi and it's not occupied, they can get a ride. Things like that. Employment is the main thing, you can't fire a person or refuse to hire them because of their gender identity. There are a lot of sad stories out there, and this will protect a group who really needs it.

So far I have not seen a good press account of the framing issue, but that's what this is all about. As we watched signature gatherers this weekend, we heard them tell people that the law will require men and women to use the same bathrooms, that pedophiles can prey on children in ladies rooms, that exhibitionists can parade around in women's locker rooms without penalty by claiming to be transgender. None of this is true, but it will get people's attention and it was good enough to get people to sign the petitions. In fact, the same group was against the new sex-ed curriculum in Montgomery County Public Schools because it taught about sexual orientation; they changed one word in their name and now they're against this bill.

The fact is, they are simply anti-gay and anti-transgender, and will do anything to make life harder for members of those groups.

Let me congratulate The Gazette for Wednesday's excellent story on the successful petition gathering effort:
Opponents of allowing the county's an anti-discrimination law to include transgendered people have turned more than 28,000 signatures into the Board of Elections to bring the legislation up to a vote by county residents.

The group, Citizens for Responsible Government, formed after the County Council passed the legislation last year, needed 5 percent, or 25,001 valid signatures for the referendum in the November balloting. Opponents to anti-bias law turn in signatures

People -- that is news reporting! It's accurate, it's fact-filled, and it says nothing about "shower-nuts" or perverted men waving their festering penises at women in the ladies room. It doesn't take our point of view or the other guys', it gives the facts. And yes, I love the word "festering."

The reporters interview people from both sides of the issue:
Meanwhile, Council President Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said Tuesday he is troubled by the misinformation he said is being spread by opponents of the law.

‘‘The thing that is sad to me is the level of vitriol,” Knapp said. ‘‘They are providing misinformation and scaring people,” he said, and the county will have to work to counter the misinformation.

Assuming all of CRG's signatures are valid, just what will the ballot question say?

‘‘We want to make sure it's simple for all county residents to understand the implications of this bill so they will see it as a clear 'yes' or 'no.' Yes, we want the bill as it is, or no, we do not,” said Michelle Turner, spokeswoman for the organization.

The other side gets their opinion printed, but without the phony junk about showers.

By the way, Michelle Turner was the original president of the group opposing the MCPS sex-ed curriculum. That effort has failed, this is their new crusade.

More facts:
The law broadens the county's existing laws to prohibit discrimination against transgendered people in housing, employment, cable television service and taxi service.

The County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) approved the law after removing a contentious amendment that would have also regulated areas like bathrooms and locker rooms. Without the amendment, operators of those facilities would retain authority on who uses them.

But opponents, such as CRG - which initially argued against the bathroom provision - still argue that the law is too vague. And because of that argument and the group's petition process, the law has not gone into effect yet, said Michael Faden, a council attorney.

This is typical. The CRW got what they wanted, and so they decided they wanted something different. Man, we have gone through this a few times in the past three years, I'll tell you.
‘‘This is a referendum on a law,” Faden said. ‘‘If they get their signatures, then it won't take effect until the referendum, and depending on the answer, if voters want it, the law takes effect 30 days after the referendum; and if voters don't want it, [the law] doesn't take effect.”

Proponents for the county's law - including Dana Beyer, a transgendered female and staff member for Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg - have called CRG's process a series of scare tactics.

CRG has run into opponents who have challenged the group's mission and petition process. In the past few weeks minor skirmishes have broken out between volunteers collecting signatures for the group and opponents at grocery stores, schools and polling places last week. An attorney for the group is deciding whether to file a civil rights lawsuit because of alleged harassment.

‘‘We have found that this issue straddles every demographic and political line,” said Ruth Jacobs, an infectious disease physician in Rockville who leads the group. ‘‘The ease with which the signatures have been obtained and the indignation of the voters demonstrate how isolated the council is from its constituents.”

I was out there monitoring the petition drive, with others, and the only physical skirmishes we know of occurred when petition-peddlers pushed members of our group. I know of at least three incidents of assault on us by them, none where any of us touched one of them. Mainly we talked to the people with the petitions, to the people who were considering signing, to store managers, and we handed out flyers. We didn't block anybody or touch anybody, except for some hugs. You can scroll down to previous posts here and see the pictures, it was very peaceful, except for one Giant where they had petition-pushers who were essentially goons.

I love to be able say this: congratulations to Janel Davis and Margie Hyslop at The Gazette for keeping their heads on straight, for reporting the story as it actually exists, without getting caught up in our rhetoric or the other side's.

And let me say again, just because this is so encouraging: early on I said this would be a test for the press. We know who failed, a couple of outlets, but all the important news media, from network and local TV to radio (mostly) to printed press, have just done a remarkable and excellent job of reporting the actual news and resisting a sensationalistic fake story.

CRW Meets the Target

The Citizens for a Responsible Whatever say they turned in 16,625 more signatures yesterday, bringing the total to 32,087. They need 25,000 valid ones to force a referendum on the new gender identity nondiscrimination law that was passed unanimously by the Montgomery County Council; that would be slightly more than 77 percent valid signatures, which is a possibility. Their first batch was reviewed by the Board of Elections, who told the CRW that 13,476 of the 15,600 signatures submitted for the midpoint had been found valid so far, and they are still checking them -- that's about 86 percent valid signatures, far above the norm. And as they check more, that percentage can only rise; expect 90 percent valid signatures, by the Board's count.

I've been saying I wouldn't be totally surprised if there were 25,000 stupid people in our county. I hoped there weren't, but I'm not surprised. When you're told that a new law lets pedophiles into the ladies room, you're going to be against it.

I expect there will be some review of the validity of the signatures. If there are indeed 25,000 valid ones, then in November the people will vote on whether to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people. More interesting times coming up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Petitions Are Due Today

I believe the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever robo-called every phone number in Montgomery County in the last few days, trying to get them to sign petitions to throw out the new gender-identity nondiscrimination law. The law says you can't not-hire somebody, not pick them up in your taxi, not serve them in a restaurant, etcetera, because of their gender identity.

A member of our listserve apparently got one of these robo-calls on her answering machine and transcribed it for us. If you belong to our Yahoo group you have already seen this; I thought it was worthwhile to post out on this more visible site, as well.

Here's what they are calling and telling people:
If you're concerned about the privacy of women and children in public bathrooms across Montgomery County, please listen to this message and visit our website,

The Montgomery County Council passed a dangerous law in November. The law adds gender identity to the county's non-discrimination code.

Unlike other gender identity bills, our Montgomery County law provides no exemptions for public accommodations. This means that access to public showers, locker rooms, and restrooms could be governed by one's gender identity. For example - the gender you believe you are, not the gender you were born with. Even Massachusetts Senator [sic] Barney Frank proposed an exemption for places of shared nudity to the federal ENDA proposed gender identity bill. Our Montgomery law has no such exemption.

Bill 23-07 has so many negative consequences that we believe the voters should have the final say.

We need your signature on a petition now to put this issue on the November ballot.

Please visit to find a list of places where you can sign the petition.

[The message then continued with a list of places where one could sign a petition on Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 4.]

This is why we call them "shower-nuts." The law was already in place to prevent discrimination based on a number of factors -- race, religion, sexual orientation, things like that. They added "gender identity." This bill levels the playing field for transgender people, in a lot of ways, it requires the rest of the population to treat them fairly. But these people are only concerned about "the privacy of women and children." The assumption of this call, and all the rest of the group's bull-oney, is that transgender women are really men, with all the predatory tendencies that implies.

Well, I'm not going to argue with it, the petitions are due today, they will either meet the goal or not.

This morning's newsletter from them said:
We have 27,932 in hand.

Hello from the counting zone at 4 am, where we have been up all night counting and scanning and numbering.

Ok, folks, if 500 of you get 5 more signatures each we make it. If 250 of you get 10 more each we make it. Please keep GOING.

We have extended our deadline to the latest we can possibly do and still make it to the Board of Elections by 4:30. Drop off locations below are collecting until 2 pm. At 2, they will be collected and brought to the counting zone. These are the same locations as yesterday with the exception of Scribblers, who has a conference today.

Today they've got about half a day and everybody's at work. I don't think they'll get very many signatures.

They need 25,000 valid signatures, that means registered voters, residents of Montgomery County. We've gone through the percentages, maybe they'll have enough and maybe they won't.

Monday, February 18, 2008

No Petitions at Giant Today

We have received word that Giant's corporate counsel has informed the local Giant stores that the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever do not have permission to collect petition signatures on the store's property today. If you see them at one of these stores, please go in and remind the manager to check his or her email.

Shower-Nuts Are Up Against The Wall

This is a new twist. Now the Citizens for Responsible Whatever are going to collect signatures on private property, with video cameras in case anybody comes and tries to correct their misinformation. And they are threatening to sue somebody for something, that's unusual.

From this morning's newsletter:
We have about 25,500 in hand.


We have to have about 30,000 RAW signatures to make sure we have 25,000 valid signatures... so please go the extra mile and KEEP COLLECTING.

Every signature counts. If you have been procrastinating, please stop by one of these locations tomorrow and sign the petition ! It would be heartbreaking to get this close and miss getting on the ballot because we didn't have enough valid signatures. Please don't let that happen. Walk your neighborhood if you have not done so... this is the fastest and easiest way to get signatures.

For most petitions, about seventy to eighty percent of the signatures turn out to be valid. We heard signature-gatherers telling people that they didn't need to be Montgomery County residents, so you can expect the number thrown out will be nontrivial.

If eighty percent are valid, the CRW will need 31,250 raw signatures to hit 25,000 valid ones. At seventy percent, they'll need 35,714.

Figure yesterday morning they said they had 22,362, today they have (they say) 25,500. So in an all-out effort on a Sunday with nice weather, they added a little more than three thousand signatures. Today's a holiday for a lot of people, let's say they are able to do that again. Let's say they get as many as 3,500 signatures. That puts them at 29,000, and they better start praying that almost all of them are good, honest, Montgomery County voters, and that no nefarious opposition parties secretly went out and signed with made-up names. "Michelle Mouse," that's a registered voter, right?

But that's not really the good part of this newsletter. There're several good chunks of ... information here.
PETITION DROP OFF LOCATIONS - these businesses are collecting signatures for us tomorrow. We are not publishing general polling locations because of harassment. We also apologize for not being present at some of the locations the robo calls referred to... we were told to leave some of the locations because of an opposing group engaging in voter intimidation. These businesses have agreed to collect today. You may also turn in signed petitions here. NOTE TO HARASSERS. THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY, THEY HAVE VIDEO CAMERAS, AND WE WILL SUE. THE LAWSUIT IS ALREADY BEING PREPARED. YOU HAD BETTER HAVE DEEP POCKETS.
10 AM to 6 PM
Dr Tom Dooley
17904 Georgia Ave
Suite 304
Olney MD 20830
Ask for Phyllis

10 AM to 4PM
Print And Post
19316 Montgomery Village Ave,
Gaithersburg, MD 20886

8 AM to 2PM
Scribbler Press
3314 Fern Dale St
Kensington, MD

Beltway Chevron
9435 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring Md. 20910.

Patton Electronics Co.
7622 Rickenbacker Drive
Gaithersburg, MD 20879

If you patronize any of these businesses, you might want to have second thoughts.

That "voter intimidation" thing is pretty good. You've read what we've been doing. Turns out it is very effective for people to meet an actual transgender person, the kind of person this bill protects. It may seem like "intimidation" to some of them, but these ladies are about as un-intimidating as you can get. We have flyers that correct the lies the CRW is telling people, and we hand those out and sometimes explain to people what the law really is about. If "voter intimidation" means exposing voters to both sides of an issue, then ... draw your own conclusion. Some people we talked to decided to sign anyway, some didn't.

This last part is fun and very creative -- they really do like the phrase "voter intimidation":

A group of three transgender and several other supporters were visiting petition sites and harassing petition circulators.

The GIANT grocery stores allow petitioners on their sites... which is a great way to support our democracy. You need to ask permission to be on their private property, and you are not supposed to be petitioning (for or against) without permission. However, it appears that the transgender Dana Beyer (who works in Duchy Trachtenbergs office) doesn't want the people to be able to vote on the bill. Dana Beyer and two other quite large male to female transgender were surrounding petition circulators, handing flyers out to petition volunteers as they were signing, and doing everything possible to intimidate voters from signing.

I love this: "two other quite large" transgender women. I'll tell you, Cynthia's what you call a "tall drink of water," Maryanne is not tall at all, and I'm not asking, but it is doubtful whether either one of them breaks a hundred pounds. V-e-r-r-y scary couple of ladies, very intimidating.

Tell you what, go back and look at the pictures on this blog to see actual images of this voter intimidation. That's one intimidating-looking hug, isn't it?

By the way, the CRW newsletter actually uses a picture from our blog. Yes, my Canon PowerShot A630 takes pretty good pictures, doesn't it? It gets a lot of pictures out of a set of batteries, too, at 8.0 megapixels. I'd recommend that they go out and buy their own.

Since they're saying that Giant allows them to collect signatures, I should remind you that nearly every Giant store except Arliss threw them out. I don't think it was our complaining that did it, the managers just came out and made them leave. I saw it happen myself a number of times. At Watkins Mill, when the manager came out and I was talking to the nice lady, he thought I was one of them, and told "us" we had to leave. I thanked him, I'm sure he thinks the CRW is very polite! Christine and I (no transgender people) were there, we hadn't even gone inside the building, didn't talk to the manager, he just didn't want his store to be associated with that kind.

Here's a fun snippet from their newsletter. If anyone comes out to give the other side of the controversy:
Bring a camcorder or a camera and get a picture. The lawsuit is coming and tell them you hope that they have deep pockets and a good attorney. Get their name.

And one last request they have, this tells you everything you need to know:
We definitely need more petition volunteers tomorrow to work our sites, can you please help ? We could use some large guys (who are sure they are guys) in case the opposition team of guys (that think they are girls) shows up and starts up again.

This is a beautifully clear statement. The hint of a threat of violence, coupled with a nice, pure bigot's-eye view of what a "guy" is and what this transgender business is all about.

It does appear there is a need for some educating here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Hypothetical Pedophile and Other Adventures in Petition-Monitoring

Another interesting day, more or less. Tiring. The Citizens for a Responsible Whatever have to have their petitions in to the Board of Elections by COB Tuesday. They need 25,000 signatures. Their newsletter earlier today said they had 22,362. Those are raw, unvalidated signatures, and usually twenty or thirty percent are invalid, so they need quite a few more. They might make it, I don't know. I started out my day checking on Leisure World. There was nobody there, so I drove out to the Giant on Watkins Mill, in Gaithersburg. Two people had the petitions, one at each end of the walkway. I talked with both of them, and they both said the same thing. They were concerned about pedophiles going into the ladies room.

In reality, they are trying to repeal a law that prevents discrimination on the basis of gender identity. There isn't anything about pedophiles in it. Pedophiles are bad, everybody's against pedophiles, and this is a great thing to say to get people to sign your petition, no matter what it's about. Both women I talked to felt it was a very real possibility that pedophiles would be able to lurk in ladies locker-rooms when this law goes into effect, and that they not only could but would do that. It creates a loophole, they both said. All a pedophile has to do is say they're transgender, and they can go into the ladies room and there's nothing anybody can do about it.

I love learning about how people think, it's so fascinating talking to these nice people -- well, one was nicer than the other -- and seeing their ideas. Let me look at this from a different angle. Let's say the law was not passed, it didn't exist, it's the same as it was last month. A guy is a pedophile, he goes into the ladies locker-room, what do you think happens?
  • Say he goes in, uses the stall, pees, leaves. Guess what -- there's no law against that. Nobody checks your criminal history when you go to use a bathroom, and there's no law that says men can't use the women's restroom.
  • Say he goes in, there's a kid there, and he looks at the kid lewdly, maybe he is becoming aroused. Now what happens? He can be arrested for peeping.
  • Say he goes in, there's a kid there, and he grabs the kid and tries to fondle him or her. What happens? Busted on sex charges.

Now we'll compare that with the way things will be under the gender identity nondiscrimination law, we'll imagine it is now in effect. A guy is a pedophile, he goes into the ladies locker-room.
  • Say he goes in, uses the stall, pees, leaves. Same thing -- there's no law against that. He can say he's transgender if he wants but there's no need to.
  • Say he goes in, there's a kid there, and he looks at the kid lewdly, maybe he is becoming aroused. Now what happens? He can be arrested for peeping. What if he claims to be transgender? No problem, he goes to jail anyway, peeping is a crime.
  • Say he goes in, there's a kid there, and he grabs the kid and tries to fondle him or her. What happens? Busted on sex charges. Claims to be transgender, no difference, busted, you can't molest children.

There is simply no logic that concludes with anybody getting away with anything, just by claiming to be transgender. Men can go in the ladies rooms now, there's never been a law against it in our county. You don't even have to claim you're transgender. As it is now, even pedophiles can go in the ladies room, there is simply no law against it. They don't need a "loophole," it's just legal.

Both the women also made comments about how bad the world is, how many bad people there are out there. It seemed like a funny way of looking at things, but that's how they feel, the world is frightening and dangerous, and if there's any bad thing that can be done, somebody will do it. You see where that goes: you have to make explicit laws against everything dangerous, harmful, or frightening. You can't leave a loophole where somebody could do something, everything we do needs to be regulated by law.

Anyway, at Watkins Mill while we were there the Giant manager came out and told them they had to leave. I enjoyed talking to the one lady, she was extremely conservative but intelligent. I respect somebody trying to protect their kids from danger and from exposure to bad influences. She did believe that it had to be entirely her way, though, there was no room for compromise, she was clear about that. That means that she has to withdraw from society in order to have the lifestyle she wishes. And she's done that, she took her kids out of school because of what they were being taught in fourth grade. Okay, fine for her, she did the right thing. The rest of us want our kids to learn things; if you don't, you should pull them out of school.

After that, we drove all the way across the county to Takoma Park, to the Arliss Giant, where three men were getting signatures. Here they are:

This guy was the worst:

This was a weird scene.

First of all, this is downcounty, this is the liberal part of MoCo. But they had three of the rudest, most obnoxious guys in the world there, and the store was backing them. Our loyal TTF member Andrea was out there with a sign, and management made her stand out in the parking lot. They wouldn't let her stand near the petition handlers. One of the CRW petition people told her that it would have been good if she had been aborted. I suppose that means he's pro-choice?

Actually, I'm going to take some of Andrea's description from the comments section of the previous post -- she says it better than I can:
I did not call people names during my time at the Giant(well, not to their faces)- but I was called a facist by short baseball cap guy and told I should have been aborted by fat white haired plaid shirt guy(two of the three Showwer nuts). Short guy seeing that a 5'1woman of more than 50 years was a threat- because I was armed with the TRUTH- tried to intimidate me. He told me I had to leave, he yelled at me to leave, told me the police told him I had to leave- I told him to bring the police to tell me to leave. He tried the "we have a permit from Montgomery County and you don't. " I didn't leave. I have faced angry war supporters, anti-feminists, US Secret Service- outside the Burmese embassy, Riot police at the Supreme court- when Burma wasn't something the whole US congress was against and nearly smashed by Philly police horses- at a Flyers Stanley Cup parade. Not to mention my travels in Asia, the Middle East and South America. So I am not gonna be scared by short baseball cap guy, old fat plaid shirt guy and not- all-there sweater hat guy.

However, short baseball cap guy did intimidate the manager of the Arliss Giant- which is one of the two dirtiest worst stocked Giants in MC- Blair Giant- you go second. I guess his mgmt skills are similar in all situations. I had spoken to the manager and I say he told me I could pass stuff out- he says he didn't and told me I had to get off the property. I think Jim will blog the rest of the story-but suffice it to say- I did stay in the parking lot with my homemade sign and our flyers. Short baseball cap guy-if you read this- I've been working on the other side of hatred and facism for 40 years- it will take more than a bigoted blowhard like you to get me gone.

Yes, Andrea has carried a sign once or twice. She is not one you push around.

I went in to find a manager and figure out why our person was kicked off the property while the CRW people were not. I talked with Aaron Williams, who said that they had gotten permission ahead of time. When we asked him who had told him that, he started by pointing out the window to the petition people, but then said he had seen something that said they had permission. He wouldn't show us anything or give us a name of who had given permission. It was very sketchy. We explained what the situation was, and complained that Giant was taking sides in this.

We told him that the petition people were out there insulting people, and he said he'd heard that, too. I told him he ought to go out there and see what was going on, and he said he would, but he never did. The Arliss Giant provided protection for these people, and made sure the opposing opinion was not heard.

After a while the police came. They talked to the petition guys, trying to find out how long this was going to be going on. Answer, about another hour. Then they came over to us and said we had to stand in the parking lot.

Theresa Rickman came out for the excitement:

These guys at Arliss Giant were saying anything to get signatures. I heard them telling somebody that the law would require men and women to use the same bathroom. A few people signed, not many.

There wasn't much to do there, so we went all the way back to the other side of the county, to Fallsgrove. Where's that, you say? It's in Rockville, on the far side of 270, it's one of those planned communities like Rio or Kentlands. I'd never been there before. The CRW had a table in front of the Safeway. We talked to the lady for a while. To her, it's all about bathrooms. She said the referendum wasn't to repeal the law, but to fix it.

At all these places I asked the people why they didn't get involved while the law was being developed. There were plenty of hearings, public comments, lots of chances to call your council member and tell them what you wanted. But as far as I know, the CRW didn't get involved at all until right at the end, when the Council was about to vote on it. Then they just got mad about it all. That's the way they are. They don't respect our processes or the rule of law. How many have told me that a referendum is "democracy?" No, having the citizens vote on bills that they have no knowledge about is not the way a democracy works. In our country, we elect people, and they have people who keep them informed, they debate the issues intelligently, they learn about the different aspects, and then they decide.

This really is the part that gets me. We have a system of government where we elect representatives and they do the work. You don't vote on every little thing. As somebody said today, if we did that, Virginia would still have segregated drinking fountains. The shower-nuts like to talk as if this is "democracy," but it's not the form of democracy we practice in the US. Oh, there is a provision for calling a referendum, but the way this should work is that interested parties participate in crafting the wording of the bill in the first place. They didn't bother to do that, just wanted to throw a tantrum when it didn't come out the way they wanted. Just like the way they wanted to recall the school board when they didn't like the new sex-ed curriculum.

Later, I was home and just thinking about dinner, when the phone rang. Maryanne was out at Fallsgrove, and there were five people with petitions, too many for her. Could I go out there and help? When I got there it was dark, there were three people at the table and Maryanne seemed to have that under control. A couple of us showed up. I noticed a lady with a clip pad out in the middle of the parking lot, picking off people as they walked up from their cars. We wandered over there, and she asked if we were registered voters. Yes. Then she started telling us about the new law and how it would allow sexual predators to go into the ladies room.

I asked her how that would work. The answer was that they just had to say they were transgender and then you couldn't make them leave. I said, let's say a guy goes into the ladies room and he's leering at the women: he will be arrested under the peeping tom law. You can't do that. A guy can't look at other guys in the men's room, women can't look at other women, it doesn't matter if you're transgender or not. She said the new law would make it more complicated, but couldn't explain beyond that one word.

She said her sister in law or somebody had been in Macy's, and a transgender person was adjusting their nylons and you could see everything. I pointed out that exposing your genitals is against the law, whether you're transgender or not. Then, as I asked more about it, it wasn't clear what you could see. Was the person wearing panties? She didn't know. So, whatever, I don't think anything really happened except that they were offended because a transsexual person was wearing nylons. The fact is, you can't expose yourself to people, it's against the law, and that won't change.

I asked her, if a person has changed their sex, so that a man has become a woman physically, do you think she should be able to use the ladies room? She seemed to think that made sense. Then we talked about stalls and doors, and how do you know if a person has the genitalia of one sex or the other? About that point, she said she needed to get moving, she had work to do. I hung around for a little longer, Maryanne had made another friend and they were talking, then we all went home for dinner.