Friday, February 22, 2008

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see that Michelle Turner confirms the relationship between CRC and CRG. The woman who chased me at Montgomery Mall told me they were 2 completely different groups.

Judy L.

February 22, 2008 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Tom B. said...


Could you elaborate a little? Others have made similar remarks and I don't understand the scenario. What do you mean by chase? Why would a CRG petitioner chase you? How did the whole encounter develop?

I crossed paths with a few of the petitioners and found them extraordinarily pleasant and pleasantly upbeat. Could you describe your experience a little more completely?


Tom B.

February 22, 2008 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Emproph said...

Don't forget the companion piece:
"Citizens for a Responsible Government spokeswoman Michelle Turner said the law is too broad. Her group wants it expressly written to bar a man dressing as a woman to access a women's restroom. She says the group also wants the bill to exempt religious institutions and schools from complying with the measure, so if a school chooses not to hire an otherwise qualified instructor because they are transgender, they will not be "subject to a lawsuit."
Just like all those religious nursery schools, that are now, and have been, subject to lawsuits since disabled persons have been protected against discrimination in Montgomery County.

Such as this guy with Tourette Syndrome:

Poor Montgomery County, you must be swimming in lawsuits.

February 22, 2008 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Tom B. sounds like our anon, who is on "hiatus".

February 22, 2008 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom B said "I crossed paths with a few of the petitioners and found them extraordinarily pleasant and pleasantly upbeat. "

Did you express a differnt opinion than theirs? You would have found out how full of hate they are if you did.

February 22, 2008 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have posted what happened before but I will repeat it. My family and I were at Montgomery Mall. This consists of me, my husband, our ninth grade daughter and our sixth grade son. I told the woman that she was telling lies and she got very angry at me. She screamed and called me foolish in a very loud voice. She chased after me and put her papers right in my face. She also told us to get out. We were leaving anyway. My son has Aspergers Syndrome and at one time this would have really freaked him out. However, he handled it well and kept talking about the scary woman at the mall. I complained about her in 2 emails to management. I don't know why she chased me. And she definitely was lying since she told me the two groups were different. Michelle says otherwise. Judy L

February 22, 2008 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea not anon
Yes, I think being called a facist and being told I should have been aborted is extraordinarily kind and pleasant. Tom B(is the second initial S?) mysteriously appears when M.N. Anon goes on "hiatus".

I think that Michelle and her friend who posts the same nonsense must not read the paper or watch the news. MC is extremely happy with our elected officials- look at the election results-the last time while Recall/CRC was screaming and crying and Tuesday, the 12th- more progressive- during the CRG/Shower liefest. Getting the signatures was the results of telling lies. It is good that Michelle does recognize that the signing is not a result of having a good platform or being a group of any value. She just forgot about the lies being the reason.

February 22, 2008 2:22 PM  

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