Monday, April 28, 2008

Scuttlebutt: Court Rules Against Radical Groups

A quick note here. It's hard to get into the court records for this, but we have been told that the circuit court judge handling the lawsuit against the Montgomery County Board of Elections has ruled against granting intervenor status to Citizens for a Responsible Whatever and the Alliance Defense Fund. The groups had filed to help defend petitions that are alleged to contain thousands of invalid signatures and evidence of fraud. The petitions calling for a referendum on the recently-passed Montgomery County gender identity nondiscrimination bill were collected by the CRW in February and certified by the board. The new bill prohibited discrimination against transgender people in certain cases, and these groups are trying to re-legalize it.

A group of county voters filed suit to challenge the petition signatures, and Equality Maryland and other groups launched an intensive campaign to scrutinize every petition, checking that signatures were valid. If the petitions are declared invalid, the referendum will be thrown out.

You will be hearing the radical groups complaining, probably starting tomorrow. They love to say that a referendum is more democratic than our representative system of government, that it's better to have things voted on by the people. Their ideal is a system of government where the majority imposes its will on whatever minority annoys them at the moment -- in this case, transgender people. Not everybody in the county agrees with them about this.

I don't get all this fancy legal stuff, you know, but I am told that what this means is that the election board is going to have to fight the suit on their own; they won't have the backing of the huge, deep-pockets rightwing groups such as ADF, which was founded by leadership of Campus Crusade for Christ, Crown Financial Ministries, Focus on the Family, Coral Ridge Ministries, International Christian Media, American Family Association, and more than thirty other conservative Christian organizations.

The judge will rule on the validity of the signatures following a hearing that is tentatively scheduled for June. Now a complaint has been filed, the results of the petition review will be available to the judge, he'll look at the evidence and make a decision -- without a bunch of shower-nuts howling into bullhorns about the safety of children and the modesty of women, about predators and pedophiles and scary perverted men lurking in ladies' locker-rooms. He'll have the luxury now of deciding on the basis of the evidence. I wouldn't guess which way it will go, I've seen some of the petitions and I know there's some crazy stuff there, but I don't try to guess what a judge will decide.

All of this has to move pretty quickly in order to have ballots ready by November.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Morning Off-Topic

This morning is it cool and gray out, after a night of furious thunderstorms; I kept losing the network as I worked here at the kitchen table during the storm. The kitty is crouched on the windowsill hoping to eat a bird, her ears are perked up, she sits motionless, wide-eyed, a natural predator reacting to something she sees, unable to quite account for the complicating fact that there is a sheet of glass between her and the sparrows that dance around our bird-feeders. She has a second reason for sitting there, too -- she can taunt the dog safely from that position. He's a little Cairn, he can see her on the sill but he's too small to reach her. She'll turn to face him and wave a paw at him, sometimes boxing him in the face. If he's really noisy about it, she'll leap off the sill and onto the back of the chair, where she'll find the most precarious way to balance, reaching through the slats of the open back of the chair so she can punch him if he gets near, but making it as complicated as she can, just for the challenge of it.

The dog chases the cats, but it is obvious to anyone that they own the place. He makes noise, he can provoke them to run at times, but ... they eat his food, they drink his water, when Mama makes sandwiches the cats go to the front row in case a piece of meat "accidentally" falls to the floor (she's too nice to them), while puppy waits sadly behind them.

It's an odd kind of hierarchy of predators. He loves making their lives miserable -- there are two cats -- and in their way they enjoy the game, too. Salem is the queen of the place, she walks past the dog slowly, sits where he can see, looking him calmly in the eye as he comes yapping, hopping like an idiot. Her favorite moment is when we bring him into the house on his leash. She always happens to be strolling casually just inside the door as we come in -- he lunges, yip-yipping, yanking on the leash, and he can't reach her. She has it timed perfectly, she moseys across the room toward the cat-door to the basement, which he can't fit through. It drives him crazy, she disappears just as we unsnap the leash and he is released to go eat the kitty-cat. Salem loves having somebody to despise, it seems to make her life complete.

We hang the bird-feeders where we can see them from the kitchen and dining room. This last week a squirrel got up there and knocked the whole sunflower-bell down, we don't usually mind if the squirrels have some, but that was not nice. We have nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, flickers, wrens, goldfinches, mourning doves on the ground where the seed falls, plus the usual ones, starlings, sparrows. Did you know that starlings can learn to talk? They are related to minahs. When I was a paperboy, a lady on my route had a minah that would say "Hello?" when I knocked on the door. I would stand out there a long time, expecting to collect my money when in fact there was nobody home, no human anyway. I recently read a news story from England where a parrot taught the other parrots at the pet shop to cuss. They said English things like "Bollocks" and "Bloody this-and-that." Wouldn't it be funny if there was a flock of foul-mouthed starlings?

I kind of don't like the starlings. They're big and they tend to chase the other birds away. We have a birdhouse over by the driveway, like an apartment, there are six units in it, and sparrows try to nest there but the starlings go in and do something, I don't know if they eat the sparrows' eggs or the chicks or what, but you can tell it's an ugly scene. The sparrows have chewed the openings to the apartment units so they're wider, and then last year they stuffed grass and paper into the openings so you can't get in on one side. I have no idea what they think they're doing, but they have some big idea there, and they work very hard at it -- yesterday I saw a sparrow perched on the wire with a piece of cloth in his mouth that was almost as big as him.

I doubt you would call a starling a "predator," really, I'm sure the kitten here (she's a couple of years old, still young) thinks of the starling as "prey." I suppose it's relative, to the sparrow the starling is bad news. This cat, Evie, is a good one -- by which I mean to say, she is a pain in the butt. She loves people and she also loves to break things, tear things up, she likes to sit on the toilet seat and splash the water all over the floor. Lampshades have no future with her in the house. Plants that hang down, macrame, forget it. Something sitting on a table, forget it. Something like a salt shaker is just waiting to be knocked over, she can't resist. She plays cat and mouse with the dog, where she's the cat. It doesn't speak that well for the dog, does it? He's sure he's chasing her, she's seeing if she can balance with each foot on a different surface, with her head upside down, reaching through the chair-slats to bat at him, it's a game for her but he's pretty sure he's going to be eating the cat in a few minutes, he's going to get her this time. But, you know, dogs are intelligent. Cats are too dumb to learn tricks, a dog can learn to do what you tell it to do. There is a moral to that story.

Well, that's my house this quiet Sunday morning. WPFW just played part of a speech by Barbara Jordan in 1974, now they're playing a gospel song, they're singing "This ground is holy ground." The DJ is explaining now, these singers are church elders from different ethnic backgrounds. Wow, they're from all over the world. I see, it was the Annual Prayer Vigil for the Earth, their web site is HERE. Pretty cool, I guess.

I'm up a little bit early this morning, I don't know why. "My" show comes on at nine, it's a few hours of guitar music mostly, and other stringed instruments. Most of the day they play good stuff, blues, old-school, jazz, on this station. I don't mind the top-forty format but it doesn't hold my attention very long. I'd rather be surprised.

This has been a great week for my seventeen-year-old. He's with his friend in Daytona Beach. The friend has an old Volkswagen bus that he's fixed up a little bit, and they drove it down there. They planned ahead, you know, got a case of ramen and a case of Krispy Kremes. Well, you have to eat, you know. They were going to go to Myrtle Beach, but the night before they were going to leave the third kid, a girl, got in some trouble with her parents and they wouldn't let her go -- you go from splitting expenses three ways to two ways and everybody gets hit pretty hard. So they threw out their plans and decided to go somewhere else. They went to Google Earth, closed their eyes and moved the cursor around, and it ended up on Port Orange, Florida. So that's where they are, it's right next to Daytona. He said "It could have been Kansas." Tell me, does that make you a little bit jealous? To be seventeen, cruising down the highway in a VW bus, going someplace you don't know? Man, I think I could handle that! He calls, sends cell-phone pictures, it sounds like an excellent time. They drove straight down there without stopping, but they decided to come back slower, along the coast, spending the night halfway.

When I was twenty or so I hitch-hiked all over the country. It's hard to explain, but let's say I ended up with three hundred dollars from a bail fund after a riot, never mind I'm not going to go into that but the charges of remaining at the scene were thrown out and there was nobody to give the bail money back to. We had three hundred bucks, stuck out our thumbs, went from Phoenix to Steamboat Springs, Boulder, Boston, New York City, Long Island, New Hampshire. I got a job in New Hampshire for a couple of months, working on the highways in Swanzey, got enough money to go around to Niagara and back to Arizona. Shortly after that I read Kerouac's On The Road and was completely unimpressed -- isn't everybody's life just like that?

You don't hitch-hike any more. Recently somebody asked me why that is. All I could think of was Charles Manson. Is there a reason you can't stick out your thumb and accept a ride from a stranger? Is there a reason you can't stop and let somebody ride with you, to share a little conversation and help them out? Everybody's just afraid of everybody any more. When I was in high school, my girlfriend lived all the way across town, and I'd go out after school and stick out my thumb and I'd be there as fast as if I'd driven myself.

It sounds like the Day of Silence went well. You might have seen, one teacher who comments here said that 250 students at his school participated in it. Tomorrow the anti-gay groups want to do something, wear t-shirts that put down gay people of something. I don't expect it to be any big deal, I suppose we'll hear about it. You understand that I am comparing people like the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever to my dog, who thinks he's the big predator chasing the cats.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Post Piece On Our County

Okay, okay, I’ll post it. This is a piece that ran in the Montgomery Extra section of the Washington Post this week. They had asked me and some other people to write up a little piece about what Montgomery County is like, so I sent them this. I don’t know that it really fits on the blog, but several people wanted me to post it. I guess it does, this blog is about living in this county as much as anything.

Here you go:
A Melting Pot of Cultures, Viewpoints

I have seen Montgomery County from several points of view, being a parent, a federal employee and something of a social activist. This is an unusual place, a bedroom community for the government, and our population is amazingly diverse -- what country on Earth is not represented here? The beauty of the countryside needs to be mentioned. I live in Rockville, not far from Rock Creek, and walking in the woods is the most refreshing experience. It is not unusual to see rush-hour traffic stopped for a family of geese single-filing across the road. We have trees along the creek that have been gnawed by beavers, and you watch for the occasional red fox slinking through back yards, even a coyote now and then. Our county shimmers with life.

But, of course, the most impressive thing here is the people. Our group,, has been involved in a vibrant debate over community issues for several years, and it has been incredibly invigorating to hear from absolute strangers who want to contribute their time and knowledge to our effort. This is not a county of apathetic sleepyheads; people here are serious about decisions that affect all of us and reflect the timbre of life in our community. There may be disagreement and debate about what direction to take, but there is nothing like the somnambulistic acceptance of the status quo that you see in so many other places.

The word "diverse" barely begins to scratch the surface here. There are neighborhoods downcounty where you could believe you were in Central or South America, with bachata blasting from boomboxes and the smoky smell of pollo a la brasa settling over the sidewalk. Then you drive upcounty and you might as well be in Idaho or at least Kansas, with wide-open landscapes, conservative people and the warmth and the pace of rural America; loop back around to Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, where the rock stars, the athletes, the lobbyists and the congressmen live, and you're in another world altogether. We really do have every kind of people here.

The result is a casual and mature kind of tolerance that you rarely find anywhere. There are so many ways of life here that the phrase starts to lose its meaning. Friends and neighbors adapt to one another's ways without judging. People look for the goodness in one another and respond to that. It adds up to a county scintillating with energy, a prosperous place where some of the world's greatest scientific breakthroughs are routinely made, where the nation's and the world's leaders rest their heads at night, where cultures interact to produce a new thing -- an integrated, high-energy, peaceful approach to living that makes better people of all of us. Call it the Montgomery County way of life.

Jim Kennedy


A Melting Pot of Cultures, Viewpoints

I should mention that I didn’t make up that title.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Surprisingly, Citizens for Responsible Whatever Oppose National Day of Silence

Tomorrow (Friday, probably "today" when you read this) is the National Day of Silence, when students everywhere can express their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. It is not surprising that the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever would take this opportunity to encourage their members to avoid educating their children. They just sent out an emergency newsletter. Here's their take on the whole thing:
Tomorrow Public Highschools and Middleschools
Engage in Indoctrination of your kids
Day of Silence, Friday April 25th, 2008

Parents with Kids in Public Highschools and Middle schools WATCH OUT
Tomorrow, Friday, April 25th is the "Day of Silence" Across Montgomery County Schools in MD.

Your public schools, if listed below, is participating.

What does this mean ?

1) Kids in the school will be be wearing "SILENT" signs and NOT responding to teacher's questions.

2) Pro-homosexual rallies, and potentially announcements over the schools intercom will take place at your school, all during schools hours.
There is one sure way to make sure your public school knows that you don't want your kid indoctrinated. KEEP THEM HOME. While SAT scores are dropping, your public school is sanctioning kids being disrespectful to teachers by not answering their questions when directly addressed.

By the way, there were 0 reports of sexual orientation discrimination in Montgomery County and 22 reports of religious discrimination, but does that stop our school system from it's rampant indoctrination of our kids using our tax dollars ? NO.

This is wonderful news. Absolutely no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Montgomery County. Uh, I mean zero reports of discrimination -- do you know how many forms you have to fill out, what agency you're supposed to go to, to report something like that? The people who get this newsletter will believe that there is no discrimination because, hey look Madge, it says so right here.

Here's the good part, if you ask me:
The List of Schools in Maryland Participating


It makes me want to giggle. There are more schools -- entire schools with thousands of students each -- than the Citizens for Blah Blah has members.

Most of the main players in the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever pulled their kids out of the public schools long ago, this isn't going to affect them. They just can't stand the idea that tens of thousands of students across the state of Maryland are going to take a day to show respect for their friends who happen to be different in an irrelevant way. It just drives them nuts. Oh wait, they were already nuts.

I think TTF parents are talking with their young ones tonight about this. Encourage them. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender kids in their schools face a lot of obstacles. Being gay, being transgender, is not a problem, there's nothing wrong with that, it's dealing with stupid people that makes life hard for them. Show them you support them, print that card out and carry it to school tomorrow. Your teachers will be cool with it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Friday Is the National Day of Silence

This Friday, the 25th, will be the National Day of Silence. People who choose to participate in this event can download a pdf file to print and cut down to make a card which reads:
Silent for Lawrence King

Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. This year’s DOS is held in memory of Lawrence King, a 15 year-old student who was killed in school because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.


What are you going to do to end the Silence?

Download that document HERE for a nice-looking printed card.

It's just a little thing, one day of being quiet. It can't hurt anybody, being quiet, but it can be dramatic.

The website has a page of explanation. I'm cutting out the in-between stuff, but they make these four major points:
1) The Day of Silence’s purpose is to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment and effective responses.

2) Hundreds of thousands of students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in the Day of Silence.

3) Day of Silence participants encourage schools to implement proven solutions to address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.

4) The day is a positive educational experience.

Not surprisingly, the Agents of Darkness try to exert their forces against this sort of peaceful, positive activity. The Alliance Defense Fund, which is an organization that has joined local agitators in trying to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people in Montgomery County, has a web site for what they call the "Day of Truth," which will be Monday. I don't know what they plan to do, talk I guess. You can buy t-shirts and posters from them.

Isn't it interesting how "those people" use the word truth? I think most of us would consider a truth to be either a proposition about something that has been observed directly or something that has been proven logically. Yet for the ADF-type folks "truth" is an assertion without evidence or support, something you believe on faith. The absence of evidence can even be twisted around to be a kind of proof of this kind of truth -- it is only through faith that you can know truth, you don't find it in material things. For them, a day of "truth" is a day to say bad things about gay people, because they believe there is something wrong with homosexuality, without evidence or logical support; they believe it on faith, therefore it is truth.

Until a few years ago I was one of those people who never gave a thought to issues facing sexual minorities. GLBT, or LGBT, was not an acronym I recognized, it seemed like gay people did a lot of squawking, and I ignored the whole can of worms. But in 2004 a group of radicals tried to remove our county's school board from office, basing their attack on an anti-gay propaganda platform. The schools had just adopted a new sex-ed curriculum that talked about sexual orientation, and these people were going to use that fact to recall the school board and replace it with a panel of nuts like themselves. Some of us were alarmed at this development, and at least for me it was an eye-opener, because in order to fight them I had to listen to their case and examine the evidence for and against it. Their agenda was incredibly ignorant and hateful, every fact was a lie and every conclusion was decided before the logical argument was developed. They opposed gay people and that was that, anything that gave gay folks an equal chance was "pro-homosexual" (to use Peter Sprigg's tired cliche). I had thought gay people were squawking about nothing, because I figured everybody was like me, more or less apathetic about the whole thing, but it turned out there are people -- we heard a politician say this a month or two ago -- who think gay people are worse than terrorists. These idiots make life miserable for some who just want to live and love in peace, and so they have to fight -- they have to squawk -- just to be treated like anybody else.

Even though the school district ended up putting a curriculum into place that talked about sexual orientation, the final product was barely sufficient to introduce the topic, teachers have to read the classes from a script, and the schools still send home anti-gay materials in students' backpacks. It was considered a gigantic breakthrough to allow teachers to tell their classes that homosexuality is not a disease. The new curriculum is an important step forward, but the silence surrounding the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity is enormous, and the Day of Silence is an excellent dramatization of that fact.

If you have a kid in school, the National Day of Silence should be a good opportunity to talk to them about these issues. Print out that card for them. The big point is that gay and transgender people are just people, they deserve the same respect as everyone else. This can be a growing experience for you and your child, and a chance for them to set an example for others.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Are American Women's Life Expectancies Getting Shorter?

Women are not expected to live as long these days -- well, I guess you could've seen that one coming. From The Post:
For the first time since the Spanish influenza of 1918, life expectancy is falling for a significant number of American women.

In nearly 1,000 counties that together are home to about 12 percent of the nation's women, life expectancy is now shorter than it was in the early 1980s, according to a study published today.

The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county in Maine. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas. The most dramatic change occurred in two areas in southwestern Virginia (Radford City and Pulaski County), where women's life expectancy has decreased by more than five years since 1983.

The trend appears to be driven by increases in death from diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema and kidney failure. It reflects the long-term consequences of smoking, a habit that women took up in large numbers decades after men did, and the slowing of the historic decline in heart disease deaths.

It may also represent the leading edge of the obesity epidemic. If so, women's life expectancy could decline broadly across the United States in coming years, ending a nearly unbroken rise that dates to the mid-1800s. Life Expectancy Drops for Some U.S. Women

You can see how this would have happened. The economy has changed in an incredible way, with women coming into the workforce, the bulk of work moving from the farm to the office building and in particular the computer. Women have always outlived men, and now I guess all things being equal, all things are getting more equal. You just wish it could have shifted the other way, men getting healthier.

Skipping down, we see the big numbers:
In the study, [Christopher J.L.] Murray and collaborators at the Harvard School of Public Health examined mortality and cause-of-death data for the United States from 1961 through 1999. They divided the country into 2,068 units, including cities, counties or combinations of counties.

Across that four-decade period, average life expectancy nationwide increased from 66.9 years to 74.1 years for men, and from 73.5 years to 79.6 years for women.

Here's a bit of a clue about what's going on here...
Unlike some European countries, the United States does not collect health information other than birth and death statistics at the local level. Instead, there are national, state and regional surveys of people's health, behavior and access to medical care. Trends those studies have picked up shed light on what is happening in the 1,000 counties.

Obesity has risen markedly in the past two decades, with women more affected than men. About 33 percent of women are now obese, compared with 31 percent of men. Extreme obesity is twice as common in women (7 percent) as in men (3 percent).

Being overweight greatly increases the risk of developing Type 2, or "adult-onset," diabetes. A national survey in 2002 found that 85 percent of diabetics were overweight or obese.

In recent years, the prevalence of high blood pressure has been increasing in women, as well -- partly the result of weight gain. In 1990, 42 percent of women older than 60 had hypertension; by 2000 it was 51 percent. (In men, the trend is still dropping, as it has been for several decades.)

"This is a story about smoking, blood pressure and obesity," said Majid Ezzati, of the Harvard Initiative for Global Health, a co-author of the paper.

I'm jumping around here a lot, but I did want to get to this important statement:
The phenomenon appears to be not only new but distinctly American.

"If you look in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, we don't see this," Murray said.

All these countries are pretty similar to the US in terms of affluence and the way they live. Here's my question for you -- why is this only happening in America, and not these other places? What are we doing different, and what would we have to do to turn this trend around?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Post Has Some New Information

The Post had a good story on the current state of the battle over the petition signatures that the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever gathered and submitted recently. These signatures are supposed to get a referendum on the ballot in November to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people, and the Montgomery County Board of Elections validated the petitions but a subsequent search by a group of volunteers has found a huge number of invalid signatures, including alleged evidence of fraud. A group of county citizens has filed suit against the election board, saying they didn't check the petitions properly and that the referendum should not be held.

I mentioned the other day that there had been a court hearing and a date had been set, but I only heard that through the grapevine and didn't have all the details. A Post reporter got more of it:
Lawyers involved in a challenge to the referendum on overturning the county's new protections for transgender people were in court last week to talk about the scope and timing of the case. The issue has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg, and arguments are tentatively scheduled for mid-June.

Jonathan Shurberg, representing proponents of the protections, has challenged the Board of Elections' decision to let voters decide in November whether the law should stand. He has questioned the validity of signatures on petitions submitted to the board and the process the board used to certify them.

"We believe we have information that will end this thing if the judge agrees with our interpretation," said Shurberg, who represents Equality Maryland, a gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. Lawyers Maneuver Against Transgender Referendum

They have to get the arguments in quickly, because this will or will not go into the November election, and they don't have much time to decide. The volunteers are working hard right now -- if you would like to help with the effort, please contact us through the email address up on the right -hand side of this screen, and we'll get your name to the people who are doing it.

There is some new and important information in this story.
Shurberg said Maryland's election law requires that a petition signature include all elements of an individual's name as it appears on the voter registration rolls. If a Montgomery voter registers using his or her middle initial, for instance, Shurberg said the petition signature must also include either the initial or the middle name. Shurberg and his team have reviewed thousands of signatures, and at last count, he said, nearly 4,200 signatures did not meet that standard.

Opponents, led by Citizens for Responsible Government, have said they followed the standards set by the board, which certified the more than 26,000 signatures, 1,800 more than the group needed to get on the ballot.

Kevin Karpinsky, the attorney representing the county's Board of Elections, was not available for comment earlier in the week.

OK, read those numbers. They had 1,800 more than they needed. Of the total, 4,200 have been found to be invalid. That means it's over. Of course, the judge needs to be convinced, I never try to guess what those guys are going to say. Still, if the law is as clear as this lawyer says it is, I don't see how they can let this referendum go on.
If Shurberg's argument fails, he said there is another batch of petitions that fall short of a separate requirement for independent verification from a so-called circulator. When opponents signed petitions printed off the Internet, he said, there was often only the signature of the signer and not the required second signature of the circulator.

The broad new protections for transgender individuals unanimously passed the County Council and were signed into law in November by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). The law prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity. Opponents contend that the law would allow a transgender male, for instance, to change in the women's locker room at a health club. Proponents say current law makes exceptions for such private areas.

Ha - that's a funny mistake in that last paragraph. A "transgender male" is a person who used to live as a female and is now male. It's not as complicated as it sounds, the person is a male, and that noun is modified by the adjective "transgender," to describe that they have had a history of sex change. A transgender male, as it says here, that is, someone who used to be a woman and is now a man, would not want to use the ladies room.

In fact, the CRW would assert that he should use the ladies room, since by some arcane scientific justification (absence of Y chromosome, for instance) the person is "really" a woman, pretending to be a man. I'll tell you, the ladies in the ladies room would not be amused if this guy came in.

Though "opponents contend" that the law would allow this, the truth of the matter is that right now anybody can legally change in any locker room, transgender or not. Exhibitionism, voyeurism, molestation are illegal, just going into a stall and changing is no crime. The new law doesn't say anything one way or the other about that situation.

The news here is that the lawyer for Equality Maryland is saying that even after the Board of Elections went through them, the CRW's petitions have 4,200 bad signatures on them. That means they have 2,400 fewer signatures than they needed to get. Those numbers had not been made public until now. Also, if that challenge doesn't work, Equality Maryland has another angle ready to go, petitions that were not legally signed by a certifier.

You might think of these as technicalities, but really the whole thing hinges on technicalities. The CRW was out there telling people this referendum would "protect the children," that it would keep predators and pedophiles out of the ladies room, and all kinds of crazy stuff, they were not candid about what the bill says -- the President of the County Council himself got in an argument with one of them, when they tried to tell him something that wasn't true. These signatures were gathered under false pretenses, but it's hard to challenge them on that basis, because it's a sad fact of life that people will sign something without paying attention. So the approach is to invalidate signatures because they fail to meet the legal standard.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MCPS Promotes PFOX

Yesterday the Mongtomery County Public Schools sent flyers home with high-school students, promoting the organization Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX).

I have a copy of the flyer, but I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing. There are six long paragraphs here, the same stuff we have seen before, let me quote a few lines for you.
Ex-gays prove that those with unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help and information in overcoming their feelings. All individuals deserve the right to self-determinism and happiness based on their own needs, and not the needs of others. PFOX supports tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

First of all, look at that first sentence. "Ex-gays" don't prove anything. The fact is that anyone can seek help and information about anything they want. The trick here is that you will agree with the second half of the sentence because it's obvious and true that people can seek help and information, and so you will tend to accept the first half. This lulls you into accepting that there is such a thing as an "ex-gay." This is not reasoning, it is a devious use of language.

And the second sentence. It seems so self-evident -- who opposes self-determinism and happiness? Self-determinism sounds good, but it does not apply to the subject of sexual orientation. You don't decide what your sexual orientation will be, you discover it as you live. PFOX professes the view that you can choose to be gay or straight, whichever you prefer, and that is absurd. They mask their message behind this friendly-sounding language.

PFOX uses half-syllogisms and happy words to make you feel that you agree with them, but the implications of what they are saying are false and hateful. Teenagers aren't sophisticated enough to untangle the real meaning of this text. The message here is this: if you're gay there's something wrong with you and you can and should change.

The final sentence there: supporting tolerance. I am going to their web site, to the "Articles" page. Here are the titles I see when I follow the links:
  • First-Person: Same-Sex 'Marriage' -- Have the Best Interests of Children Been Considered?
  • Seven Things I Wish Pro-Gay People Would Admit
  • Leader of Gay Group Indicted in Rape Case (linked from the phrase "Violence Against Gays")
  • Tolerance for Everyone (an article about a lesbian who falls in love with a man)
  • Survey Reveals Why Some 'Same Sex Attracted' Men Seek Change
  • Could a gay Congressman be quarantined?


Notice a trend there? Notice the tolerance? PFOX routinely lies about being tolerant of gays. They are lying on this flyer, circulated by MCPS at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville and probably in other places yesterday.

I do not see one article offering hope to straight people who wish they were gay, telling them "change is possible," offering suggestions for counseling and religious organizations that can help them make the transition. I don't even see anything defending the rights of "ex-straight" persons.

Here's the deal. There are groups that are not educational but work within the school community, scouts and sports groups and others that work with kids, and they need to be able to get announcements and information home to parents. So there is a procedure where four times a year a group can get flyers into the students' backpacks. PFOX capitalizes on that opening, they'll scream bloody murder if MCPS doesn't let them send their literature home, too, and so schoolteachers and administrators get the flyers all ready and hand them out to the students.

For an hour and a half in eighth grade and an hour and a half in tenth grade, the Montgomery County public schools will teach your children some facts about sexual orientation and gender identity. Four times a year, for as many years as PFOX chooses to do it, MCPS will give your children literature that completely undermines the health classes, that promotes bigotry, literature that is laced with hate and lies.

Who at Carver has the fortitude and the vision to put a stop to it? It's easy to say "There's nothing we can do," somebody's going to have to risk something to put a stop to this.

An Annoying Article in The Post

Was anybody else as annoyed as I was with this feature in The Post yesterday morning? As if sexuality has just gotten too complicated for ordinary people to understand it.
Early one morning, Nancy Nisselbaum was readying her 6-year-old son Marshall for school and herself for work when he asked: "Mommy, how does the sperm get from the donor to the doctor?"

A single mom by choice, Nisselbaum had neatly fielded earlier questions about why her son didn't have a dad. But this query momentarily stumped her. Then she took a deep breath and dived in:

"Let's start with . . . married people," she said, and explained the traditional sperm-meets-egg method. "Ewww. Gross," Marshall replied, as any self-respecting first-grader would.

Working up to his original question, Nisselbaum, who lives in New York, next explained the mechanics of masturbation. Marshall listened intently, then moved on to other crucial morning concerns, like getting dressed.

Even for a parent used to frank talk with her children, explaining this particular means of modern reproduction before 9 a.m. can make for a tough start to the day. 'The Talk': Forget the Birds and the Bees -- Kids Are Asking About IVF, Transgender Pregnancy and STDs

I know that readers of this blog will have their own answers for a question like that for a kid that age. It seems to me that this kid had heard part of a story and didn't have the background information to make sense out of it, like he didn't apparently understand about intercourse and fertilization -- it seems to me that masturbation is a topic to come in a later talk. I can't imagine that this kid actually understood all this stuff; I don't think any harm was done with this talk, though I doubt it was effective.

Funny, I just remembered being a kid. When I was little, maybe five or six, my mother had given me a talk where she told me the names of all the "important" body parts, and of course I forgot them all. A couple of years later a body part became relevant in a conversation and I couldn't remember what it was called. I can still remember trying to come up with it -- it seemed to me that the word "spine" was one of them, but what did it mean?
Changes in reproductive technology, a new openness about formerly closeted subjects and the flaunting of overtly sexual imagery in news and entertainment outlets have shifted the parameters of the traditional preteen birds-and-bees talk. (Remember? Mothers talked to daughters; dads talked to sons. End of discussion.)

Today, experts urge parents to welcome questions on sexuality by the time their kids can ask why the sky is blue. Recent research has shown that regular discussions of sexuality may improve parent-child relationships and even delay the onset of sexual activity by children. For some parents, that latter effect is taking on new importance in light of a recent study showing that at least one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease.

That last finding really shook people up. Never mind that the primary disease is HPV, which is spread by any skin contact and is not necessarily an STD. I suppose it's good that the news hit hard and made people aware of the risks of unprotected sex.

So far this story is just the usual cute stuff, it's excruciating but it's part of our world, people who think this is funny. Now we're getting to the theme that annoys me.
What a complex new world parents have to explain today. It's not just that some kids have two mommies, others two daddies or no daddy at all. Or that national debates on abortion and gay marriage, along with news stories on in vitro fertilization and sex changes, are generating a whole new set of questions.

We've also got a transgender person -- born a woman but now living as a man, albeit with female reproductive organs intact -- showing off what seems to be his six-month pregnancy bump on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Try explaining that to a 9-year-old -- or a 40-year-old, for that matter.

Okay, listen, it's not that hard for a kid to relate to the fact that some people have two mommies. You just say, "Bobby has two mommies." Maybe you don't get it, but your kid will, it's not that hard of a concept. Abortion? What's to say, a lady was pregnant and the doctor did something so she wasn't pregnant any more. A kid can understand that. If you want to moralize about it, that's what family values are all about, this is an opportunity for you to propagate your beliefs, whatever they are, to the next generation. A pregnant transgender man? He used to be a woman by mistake and they fixed him, but he's still got woman organs inside his tummy and now there's a baby there.

The controversies are in the adult world, these are actually simple things for a kid to understand. It really doesn't have to be hard, and somehow I'm not thinking it's that funny. There have always been gay and transgender people, the difference is that now mainstream society recognizes them as productive and likable human beings. They aren't hidden any more, they aren't ashamed of themselves and rest of us aren't offended by them. That's all that's changed. Reality hasn't changed, the public perception of it has. It makes sense to raise your kid for the world they're going to live in, not the vanished past.
What's more, some experts say there's a disconnect between the Bush administration's sex-education message (practice abstinence until you're wed) and the implicit media message (engage freely in sexual behavior). And in that disconnect lies a danger, says Baltimore-based sex educator Deborah Roffman, the author of "Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex."

"You could do a real disservice with this assumption that you wait until the child asks," she said. "The truth is that we've left our children in a vacuum around these topics, and popular culture has just waltzed into this vacuum."

Good, the aggressive approach. Tell your kids the whole story from the start. Most of the time girls fall in love with boys and boys fall in love with girls, but sometimes they don't. Most of the time people who get pregnant are happy to have a new baby, but sometimes they really can't. Sometimes when a baby is born they think it's a girl but it's really a boy, or vice versa (don't say "vice versa" to a six year old, okay? I'm just trying not to have to say everything both ways here). You can tell a little kid these things, they can handle it, and then it won't sound like you're covering up something later when you have to explain something slightly complicated like pregnant transmen -- and why is your six-year-old watching Oprah, anyway?

By the way, you might remember Deborah Roffman from our education forum back in 2005. She was articulate, knowledgeable, full of insights and surprising perspectives.
Which leaves many parents asking: How do you give your kids the tools they need to safeguard their physical and emotional health? And how much should you tell kids to reassure them about their own sexuality but not encourage risk-taking?

No one claims finding age-appropriate words to explain sperm donation -- or even simpler topics -- is easy. Self-consciousness and embarrassment sometimes trip up even those who work in the field.

I am somewhat puzzled by this. It is not apparent to me that a child's physical and emotional health are threatened by the knowledge that there is diversity in the world. Chances are, the kid will grow up heterosexual, identified with their assigned sex, but not necessarily. You're talking to a little kid, you don't know how they'll turn out. It's not like lying to them is going to make their life better later.

It just seems to me that all the assumptions in this article are wrong.

Half-informed kids can be a menace, they tease and taunt, they bully, they are anxious about their own identities. I don't see why all of this has to be a big secret. Some people are gay. Some are transgender. Sex and marriage go together but not always. Just explain it right the first time, then you won't get confused by some of the more complicated examples.

There's a lot more to this article, you may find it interesting.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Malleable Female Sexual Attraction

The Washington Post had a more interesting than usual book review section this week, I thought. The theme Sunday was "women's worlds," and they reviewed books about issues having to do with sex and gender, especially focused on women.

One book that was reviewed has some relevance to issues we deal with here. Sexual Fluidity - Understanding Women's Love and Desire by Lisa Diamond reports on research that has been discussed on this blog previously. She has spent years following a group of women whose self-reported sexual orientation is changeable. Sometimes they're lesbians, sometimes they're straight, it seems that what attracts them to someone is something about the person, not necessarily the form of their plumbing. I saw her give a talk at an APA conference a couple of years ago and talked with her afterwards, it is a fascinating subject and a complicated one.

I will juxtapose this with the news that the Montgomery County Public Schools, at least some of the high schools, will be distributing literature this week put out by PFOX -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. We don't know what kind of documents they will be giving the children, but can assume it will be something similar to the student brochure posted on their web site. It urges students not to adopt a "gay identity" just because they are attracted to members of their own sex, it says there is "no evidence showing the origins of same-sex attractions are genetic," insists "there is no gay gene." There is a photo of happy, smiling teenagers.

I need to make it clear that Dr. Diamond's research does not support PFOX's message of change. She's at the University of Utah and she told me that she gets office visits from Mormon men asking her for advice, saying they "just can't be" gay, but she has nothing to tell them. She has identified some women whose sexual orientation is not fixed, but there is no indication, for one thing, that any men are like that, and for another thing, that you can learn to change or loosen up your sexual orientation. These women are just like that, that's all.

I think this research is informative and relevant to the issues we discuss here. I quote from The Post book review because, well, because it's shorter than the book itself.
The title of the first chapter in Diamond's Sexual Fluidity-- "Will the Real Lesbians Please Stand Up?" -- is likely to intrigue even the most jaded sexpert. In the kick-off to her study of the malleability of female erotic longing, Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, writes:

"In 1997, the actress Anne Heche began a widely publicized romantic relationship with the openly lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres after having had no prior same-sex attractions. . . . The relationship with DeGeneres ended after two years, and Heche went on to marry a man. The actress Cynthia Nixon of the HBO series Sex and the City developed a serious relationship with a woman in 2004 after ending a fifteen-year relationship with a man. Julie Cypher left a heterosexual marriage for the musician Melissa Etheridge in 1988. After twelve years together, the pair separated and Cypher -- like Heche -- has returned to heterosexual relationships. In other cases, longtime lesbians have unexpectedly initiated relationships with men, sometimes after decades of exclusively same-sex ties. . . . What's going on? Are these women confused? Were they just going through a phase before, or are they in one now?"

Setting out to prove the theory that, for some women, love is truly blind where gender is concerned, Diamond presents her evidence in a fascinating, anecdotal fashion -- by tracking over the span of a decade the relationships of nearly 100 women who at one point or another had experienced "same-sex attractions." The women move from men to women and back again (or vice-versa), their sexual identity as changeable as their desires. Additionally, she delves into the brain science behind lust, love and infatuation, revealing that what draws women toward a particular partner is as much a function of biology as it is anything else. To her credit, Diamond avoids scripting her arguments in obtuse academese. With her compassionate, understated approach, she has stepped up the business of gender research. Carnal Confusion: As sexy as our culture is, we still don't understand sex

[Note that this review covers two books, the title may be more relevant for the other one.]

Dr. Diamond is talking about some women whose natural inclination is not rooted in the anatomical sex of a romantic partner. They don't select whether to be straight or lesbian and then search for someone who fits the template, they find themselves attracted to someone and, for these women, it turns out not to be important whether that person is a man or a woman. Maybe it is a sense of humor they like, or a handsome face, maybe a certain attitude about things, where it doesn't matter what sex you are. This is an interesting phenomenon in its own right, I don't know if she discusses the proportion of women who feel that way -- people may have private feelings that they don't acknowledge publicly, and there is certainly social pressure, norms of behavior that discourage this sort of ambiguity, so this might be a little hard to count.

PFOX, on the other hand, simply starts with the notion that it's bad to be gay. If you're gay you should stop. Where Diamond's subjects switch in both directions, PFOX is only interested in one, they are not at all interested in telling straight people that they can change and become homosexual! It is funny, though, and there have been some pretty good parodies on the Internet about that. No, PFOX promotes the lie that gay people can choose to be straight. It presupposes a negative view of homosexuality and tries, through clever sloganeering and pamphleteering, to convince gay people, especially young gay people, that they can learn to be straight. Then, you know, people will stop teasing them at school and stuff. Except that PFOX's other big message is that "ex-gays" are victimized more than anyone -- they say on their web site:
However, there are those who refuse to respect that decision. Consequently, formerly gay persons are reviled simply because they dare to exist!

Nobody has ever actually heard of that happening, it is something they like to claim when somebody sensible points out the fact that they are bigots and liars. In reality, if somebody stopped being gay nobody would really care, unless they went around telling other gay people they should do it, too. PFOX is, indeed, reviled, but a person who used to be gay and isn't now would just be another straight person.

It seems to me like a bad idea to let other people tell you who to like, who to love, who to get romantically involved with. Nature will move you, and I can't see why it would matter what anybody else thinks. Marriage has, through the history of mankind, been a matter of economics and reproduction, but our modern civilized society allows us the luxury of marrying for love -- and it's nobody's business who you love.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Beautiful Spring Sunday Morning

It's hard to believe that this is our fourth spring with this TTF stuff. We started in December of 2004, I remember I was wearing my heavy jacket at the first meeting of the Recall Group, it was cold. They were organizing to recall the school board for voting to adopt a new curriculum that taught about sexual orientation -- oh, they were outraged. I was wearing the jacket I bought in Anchorage, and I asked a question but the train was already rolling down the hillside, or maybe it would be a better metaphor to say the avalanche had already started. Those people had already decided to capitalize on the momentum of the 2004 Bush victory, the "mandate," and they were going to throw out the whole county school board and re-make this place in their image.

So now it is this many years later, and they're still at it. Oh, they lost in the schools, the school district has adopted a new curriculum and thanks to the Recall Group's lawsuit it is actually a more progressive one than the one they initially opposed. Now they're fighting equal rights for transgender people, the same people are against this that were against the public school curriculum.

Today it's cloudy outside, but nice. Did you see the sky last night? When the sun was going down, there was a kind of pinkish light against rough, stormy rain-clouds, just amazing. In our neighborhood it blew over, but I'll bet some people got showers. I think today is going to be nicer.

I heard a a little bit of news about the transgender controversy. Apparently there was a preliminary court date this week. The Alliance Defense Fund was supposed to help out the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever, but it sounds like they forgot to show up. There will be a formal hearing in June, if everything goes as planned. In the meantime, the volunteers are still going through the petitions. They have found thousands of bad signatures on the petitions for the CRW's referendum, there is evidence of fraud, it's not going to be pretty.

The thing is, people are busy, you can confuse them, you can get them to sign something or vote for something if you make it sound a particular way. That's a good short-term strategy, I suppose. And when you're talking about gender identity, you have a lot of people who don't know much about the topic, it's a pretty safe thing that you can confuse the public. Talk about predators in the ladies room and people will be against it. "Religious exemptions?" I don't get that. Why would churches need special permission to discriminate against one particular group of people? Churches need to discriminate? I guess I grew up different from that.

If you're talking about re-legalizing the right to discriminate against transgender people, which is what this referendum is about, you won't find a lot of people in our county who are too excited about that. It is difficult for most of us to imagine that a person we think of as a man feels like a woman or vice versa and wants to change their body to match their subjective experience, but even if we can't understand it we can understand that it's not a trivial decision, it's not something you do on a whim. Somebody goes through serious soul-searching before they make a decision like that, and most of us respect a person's right to make careful decisions about their own life. You won't find Montgomery County voting to allow discrimination against people who have gone through that.

If the CRW is able to get this on the November ballot, it will simply be a question of education. People will need to know what the issue is, really. Men can go into the ladies room legally now, predators and pedophiles can pee in the ladies room if they choose to, there's no law against it. It's always been that way, we don't expect the government to manage our business at that level, and ladies, if you've ever stood in line in the hall waiting while the men's room stalls were empty, you might appreciate this fact. You want to use the men's toilets, go right ahead. You can't stand around checking out the men, you can't flash the men, you can't put your hands on the men, but if you need to pee and there's an empty stall you can use it. Same the other way, guys can use the ladies room if the men's room is out of order or whatever. What kind of crazy person wants a law about that?

The answer is, a person who wants to discriminate against transgender people will want a law regulating use of public restrooms. Because who knows, a lady might not be a lady, a man might not be a man, if you pulled their pants down you might find surprising plumbing. But ... are you going to do that? Who's the weird one there?

These guys have identified a near-zero-probability event, a transitioning transgender person exposing themselves in the showers, and they are trying to use that to make it legal again to discriminate against transgender people. Get real: have you ever seen that, a man in woman's clothing waving his penis around a ladies shower? Have you ever even heard of that?

The fact is, transgender people have a tough way to go. People are uncomfortable with it, they don't understand it, transgender people are the victims of violence very often, and they are discriminated against in a million ways. You can imagine there are uncomfortable moments every day, "pronoun" moments when people don't know what to say, and ... I was standing in a parking lot once talking to a transgender woman, and a car went by, rolled down their window, and shouted out that the person was an "abomination." They must hear that every day, totally needless hateful things said by ignorant people.

To my mind, it's okay to treat people with respect. A person is qualified for a job, they ought to be able to earn a living, is that so hard to accept?

It looks like the sun might be coming out. Our grass has gone crazy over the last week, between the warmth and the rain. I've got a teenage kid, do you think I can find him to get him to mow the yard? Uh, not a chance. Wow, even as I typed those words, the sun came out strong, shadows across the grass. It's a little early for yard sales, but this is the weekend for the Stone Ridge book sale -- if you haven't gone to that I strongly recommend it. They advertise that they have "fourteen miles of books," and that sounds about right. Stone Ridge, on the Pike kind of near White Flint and Strathmore. We go there every year and find amazing books of all kinds. Right now there is an emotional, full-throated violin playing on WPFW, the dog has been out and is sleeping at my feet, I have had half a pot of coffee -- not too much, but just enough. We went out to the Surf Club last night to hear some music, it's very interesting for me to hear the local guys, you know I played music for a living for a long time. I'd say a couple of those guitar players had stolen my licks, but I was way out on the West Coast, I don't know how they did that. Maybe we listened to the same players, I guess I can give them that. There is some good music in the DC area, it's funny how it doesn't escape to the general public outside the region, the rock and country and blues music and the go-go sound, never mind the jazz and bluegrass players. There have been a few but generally this is a black hole where good musicians get stuck, fame doesn't come around here passing out opportunity coupons. It has led to tragedy in some cases, and mere disappointment in others. A few DC-area people have made it in the music business, but it's a tough way to go.

Well, it's time to get this nice day on the road. The DJ just said it's going to rain later and there could even be sleet, I guess springtime is one of those in-between seasons, a day can go either way.

Friday, April 11, 2008

They Need Special Laws

I've got to say, it just wouldn't occur to me to think like this.

The GOP is going to have its convention in the Twin Cities. But there's a problem: the bars close at night.

They couldn't just go back to their hotel rooms at the end of the night like everybody else:
Bar and restaurant hours during the Republican National Convention might be able to stretch into the wee hours of the morning after all, with new legislation that some prior naysayers are tentatively embracing.

A proposal for allowing bars to remain open until 4 a.m. around the time of the convention passed unanimously Tuesday through the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

The action follows the failure of two previous proposals — including one by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, which was removed from a budget bill Thursday.

In contrast, the new bill allows bars within the seven-county metro area — including the border cities of Northfield and New Prague — to stay open later from the evening of Sunday, Aug. 31, through the early morning of Friday, Sept. 5. That's five nights, rather than 11 — and no Friday or Saturday. Minnesota House committee OKs later bar-close times, with restrictions, for GOP convention

There's more to this article. I don't know, I just found it interesting that they changed the law to allow the Republicans to drink more, rather than asking them to obey the law that's good enough for the locals.

Allowing in a Culture of Fear

Now this is a sign of the times. A lady let her nine-year-old kid ride the subway by himself. She gave him money and trusted him to figure out how to get where he was going. Expected that if he didn't know what to do, he'd ask someone.

People freaked.

From the New York Sun:
I left my 9-year-old at Bloomingdale’s (the original one) a couple weeks ago. Last seen, he was in first floor handbags as I sashayed out the door.

Bye-bye! Have fun!

And he did. He came home on the subway and bus by himself.

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them. Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone

Listen, I want to give this lady a big sloppy kiss. When we were kids we did stuff. Nine years old, we'd wander to a different neighborhood, maybe on our bikes if it was far, we'd play with some other kids, climb a mountain, whatever. What's happened to us?

Read more, this lady is wonderful.
And yet —

“How would you have felt if he didn’t come home?” a New Jersey mom of four, Vicki Garfinkle, asked.

Guess what, Ms. Garfinkle: I’d have been devastated. But would that just prove that no mom should ever let her child ride the subway alone?

No. It would just be one more awful but extremely rare example of random violence, the kind that hyper parents cite as proof that every day in every way our children are more and more vulnerable.

Mmmwwaaahh! Lady, I love you!

It looks like I'm going to copy this whole article here, it's just too good.
“Carlie Brucia — I don’t know if you’re familiar with that case or not, but she was in Florida and she did a cut-through about a mile from her house ... and midday, at 11 in the morning, she was abducted by a guy who violated her several times, killed her, and left her behind a church.”

That’s the story that the head of, Katharine Francis, immediately told me when I asked her what she thought of my son getting around on his own. She runs a company that makes wallet-sized copies of a child’s photo and fingerprints, just in case.

Well of course I know the story of Carlie Brucia. That’s the problem. We all know that story — and the one about the Mormon girl in Utah and the one about the little girl in Spain — and because we do, we all run those tapes in our heads when we think of leaving our kids on their own. We even run a tape of how we’d look on Larry King.

“I do not want to be the one on TV explaining my daughter’s disappearance,” a father, Garth Chouteau, said when we were talking about the subway issue.

Look at what we have become. We are afraid of our own shadows.

Here is where she gets analytical about it, I believe this is the crux and cause of this situation:
These days, when a kid dies, the world — i.e., cable TV — blames the parents. It’s simple as that. And yet, Trevor Butterworth, a spokesman for the research center, said, “The statistics show that this is an incredibly rare event, and you can’t protect people from very rare events. It would be like trying to create a shield against being struck by lightning.”

Contrast the incredibly low probability of something bad happening to a kid to the sense of independence, the learning experience of controlling their own life, that they get from being allowed to do things. Somehow it has become the norm in America to avoid doing anything with any risk in it whatsoever, we interpret everything in the most terrifying way possible.

It seems to me there is value in accumulating experience, do you think?
Justice Department data actually show the number of children abducted by strangers has been going down over the years. So why not let your kids get home from school by themselves?

“Parents are in the grip of anxiety and when you’re anxious, you’re totally warped,” the author of “A Nation of Wimps,” Hara Estroff Marano, said. We become so bent out of shape over something as simple as letting your children out of sight on the playground that it starts seeming on par with letting them play on the railroad tracks at night. In the rain. In dark non-reflective coats.

The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

Meantime, my son wants his next trip to be from Queens. In my day, I doubt that would have struck anyone as particularly brave. Now it seems like hitchhiking through Yemen.

Here’s your MetroCard, kid. Go.

Great statement: over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. We are raising a generation of incompetent people. And are we any safer for it?

What's amazing here is not that a lady let her kid ride the subway, but the reaction she gets. People think this is child abuse, letting a kid have some independence, trusting him to think for himself, letting him make a decision. It seems to me that in a few years, a kid like this is going to own the world, and his scaredy-cat little friends will only be able to do what somebody tells them they can do.

I expect there will be differences of opinion about this one, and in fact my expectation is that opinions will not break down along the usual conservative-versus-liberal lines -- or will they? We live under an administration that has cultivated fear, maybe allowing your kid to do something on his or her own has become a political act.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

ADF Spins It Their Way

Somebody alerted me to a web site with some information on it about our local controversy. Our Montgomery County anti-gay/anti-transgender group, currently calling themselves Citizens for a Responsible Government, submitted petitions to have a referendum put on the ballot in November. They submitted enough names, and the Board of Elections looked them over and certified them. Equality Maryland got copies of the petitions and the voter registration database, and has been going through them, looking at the signatures, and has determined that thousands of them were improperly validated by the elections board. On the basis of that, a group of county citizens filed suit against the board.

In the meantime, the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever (it used to be "Curriculum," they changed it to "Government") retained a legal group that has been involved in all kinds of rightwing causes. I'm reading about the Alliance Defense Fund in Wikipedia:
The Alliance Defense Fund ("ADF") is a conservative Christian non-profit organization with the stated goal of "defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation." In practice ADF is opposed to all forms of abortion, same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, allowing LGBT persons to serve in the military, and sex education in schools that includes comprehensive education on contraception. ADF also works to establish public prayer in schools and government events, and to protect religious displays in government settings, like crosses and other religious monuments built on public lands.

ADF was launched in 1994 by Bill Bright (founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), Larry Burkett (founder, Crown Financial Ministries), James Dobson (founder, Focus on the Family), D. James Kennedy (founder, Coral Ridge Ministries), Marlin Maddoux (President, International Christian Media), and Donald Wildmon (founder, American Family Association), along with the leadership of over thirty other conservative Christian organizations. ADF supports allied attorneys and organizations through strategy, training, funding, and direct litigation through its legal team. Wikipedia: Allied Defense Fund

So this is a big-time group with connections to all the Family Blah-Blah organizations.

They put up something on their web site about their support for the CRW's referendum effort. You might find some of this interesting.
BALTIMORE — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a motion Wednesday asking a Maryland court to allow voters to defend a petition being challenged by advocates of homosexual behavior even though the signatures have already been certified. A citizen voter coalition collected substantially more than the required number of signatures for the referendum petition, which gives voters their right to be heard on a county bill that extends special legal protections based on "gender identity."

"In America, every citizen’s voice counts. The signatures on these petitions are valid, so these citizens should not be denied the right to have their vote count in an important referendum," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. "In Maryland, the people are the ultimate legislative authority and they must be heard." ADF to defend Md. voters’ right to be heard

They would like to portray this as a way for "the people" to be heard.

You got to hand it to these characters, they have a way of simplifying things so even the stupidest person can get their point. Actually, this kind of argument is tailored for stupid people.

The public doesn't vote on every little thing. The reason is this: being informed about the details of policy, the potential effects of particular decisions, the political subtleties of policy choices, is a full-time job. You and I don't have enough hours in the day to ponder every word of every bill the County Council votes on, never mind the state legislature and Congress. We can't consider every line in the budget, government employees' salaries, hiring people to maintain the roads and the parks and trash collection.

We elect people to do that. It's their job, they spend eight hours a day doing nothing else, and most of them end up going out at night and meeting with the public or with interested parties, too. And they have people working for them who find out information and help them understand it all. It's a lot of people putting in a lot of hours.

The County Council members were elected, as I recall, by large majorities, and they voted unanimously to add some wording to the standing nondiscrimination law. The County Executive signed the new bill without hesitation.

The people are in control of the process. We elect the people who put in the hours necessary for this sort of thing. We are a republic, not a democracy. If "the people" voted on every piece of policy and law, you would have chaos as uninformed people made important decisions, and you would have unbelievable inequities as the majority gave all special privileges to themselves. Our country is intentionally not like that.

If the citizens of the county were asked how they feel about gender identity, surveys show that ninety percent of them would say "Huh?" People don't know what the term "gender identity" means, most of them don't know a transgender person, most people don't care one way or the other about it. People in our county lean toward fairness, they would figure, okay, somebody changes from a man to a woman or vice versa, it's their life, they deserve to be treated fairly, and that would be it.

The other side however has described the issue in sensationalistic terms. Their web site isn't called "," it's called "" Because it's about showers. It's about men going into the ladies locker rooms. And if you asked people to vote on that, just about everybody would vote against it, nobody wants men in the ladies room, especially pedophiles and predators that they keep talking about.

That means if this goes to referendum there will have to be a huge educational effort. You can say "predators in the ladies room" or "safety of children" in one short breath, but you can't explain why somebody would want to change their sex without going into some detail, some nuance. It will be expensive, it will require a lot of effort to get the public up to the level of knowledge that the Council had when they voted on this thing.

ADF has more to say:
The group Equality Maryland filed suit to challenge the petition process and various signatures shortly after the Montgomery County Board of Elections certified them. ADF attorneys filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, Doe v. Montgomery County Board of Elections, on behalf of Citizens for Responsible Government to protect the interests of the voters of Montgomery County.

"No evidence has been presented to show that any of the signatures are invalid or that these registered voters should not take part in the democratic process," said Nimocks. "The political agenda of an activist group cannot be allowed to disenfranchise the voters of an entire county. The referendum simply allows the people of Montgomery County to decide the issue, but apparently Equality Maryland doesn’t want the people to be heard."

There is a good reason that no evidence has been presented, and that is that there hasn't been a court hearing yet. You don't present the evidence when you file a suit, you do that later, which I would think these lawyers would know.

It's probably pretty smart for them to pretend to be the mainstream, contrasted to an "activist group" like Equality Maryland. Except people have just come through nearly eight years of the Bush administration and don't have much tolerance any more for the religious right and its judgmental, self-interested ways. Nobody thinks of that as "mainstream," especially around here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hypocrisy On Abortion

The MCPS citizens advisory committee had a strange moment a couple of years ago when we were discussing the new sex-ed curriculum. There was a point where the question came up, shouldn't the curriculum talk at some point about what to do if you find you're pregnant? It seemed like the elephant in the room to me, such an obvious thing.

The answer is, you can do one of three things. You can have the baby and keep it, you can have the baby and put it up for adoption, or you can have an abortion.

Even as the words came out of our mouths we knew it would never happen. Even though all those choices are legal and are selected every day by responsible people, we knew the school district would never allow the word "abortion" to be used in a health class in a non-negative way. To me it's so discouraging to see the hypocrisy we have insitutionalized, that we let our society be held hostage by a small gang of pseudomoral thugs.

Look what happened online:
WASHINGTON — Johns Hopkins University said Friday that it had programmed its computers to ignore the word “abortion” in searches of a large, publicly financed database of information on reproductive health after federal officials raised questions about two articles in the database. The dean of the Public Health School lifted the restrictions after learning of them.

A spokesman for the school, Timothy M. Parsons, said the restrictions were enforced starting in February.

Johns Hopkins manages the population database known as Popline with money from the Agency for International Development.

Popline is the world’s largest database on reproductive health, with more than 360,000 records and articles on family planning, fertility and sexually transmitted diseases. Health Database Was Set Up to Ignore ‘Abortion’

Wow, I never used this before, but it's great: PopLine.

You could find information on any other medical procedure, disease, whatever, having to do with reproduction, but they just took that one word out as a search term.

This article is careful not to say that the government ordered them to remove that search term, but the idea is not exactly squashed, either.
Mr. Parsons said the development agency had expressed concern after finding “two articles about abortion advocacy” in the database. The articles, he said, did not fit database criteria and were removed.

Employees who manage the database instructed their computers to ignore the word “abortion” as a search term.

After learning of the restrictions on Friday, the dean, Dr. Michael J. Klag, said: “I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the Popline administrators restore ‘abortion’ as a search term immediately. I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred.”

He knows of course that he is risking losing an important grant. It is in the university's interest to stay on good terms with the people who hand out the money for projects like this. It doesn't need to be Johns Hopkins, I'll bet you there are other universities with the competence to manage a medical database.
Dr. Klag said the school was “dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, and not its restriction.”

Ted Miller, a spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, said: “The public has a right to know why someone would censor relevant medical information. The Bush administration has politicized science as part of an ideological agenda. So it’s important to know if that occurred here.”

True, that. Did government people request this change? Who would be surprised if they did?
Librarians at the Medical Center of the University of California, San Francisco, expressed concern about the restrictions this week after they had difficulty retrieving articles from Popline.

In an e-mail response on Tuesday, Johns Hopkins told the librarians that “abortion” was no longer a valid search term.

“We recently made all abortion terms stop words,” Debra L. Dickson, a Popline manager, wrote. “As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now.”

Ms. Dickson suggested that instead of using “abortion,” librarians could use other terms like “fertility control, postconception” or “pregnancy, unwanted.”

Gail L. Sorrough, director of medical library services at the medical center in San Francisco, said it was absurd to restrict searches using “a perfectly good noun such as ‘abortion.’ ”

Under the rule, Popline ignored the word “abortion,” just as it ignores terms like “a” and “the.” Ms. Sorrough and a colleague, Gloria Won, reported their experience on an electronic mailing list, and librarians protested the restrictions.

Interestingly, librarians have been some of the biggest supporters of the Internet since it started. I remember even back in the days before we had a graphical interface to hyperlinked content, that is, web browsers, the librarians had big servers with all kinds of categorized information. It's also interesting that the medical community has been so slow at adopting this kind of technology. And then you see this sloppy obeisance to the hint of authority and the almighty dollar and it starts to make sense.
“We sent this out on a listserv, and it just exploded,” Ms. Sorrough said. “Eliminating this term essentially blocks access to reports in the database and ultimately to information about abortion. Unwanted pregnancy is not a synonym for abortion.”

Items on Popline include articles on “demand for abortion by unmarried teenagers” and federal judges’ abortion rulings.

A pregnant woman does have the three choices I gave above, and any of the choices may make the most sense given the situation. Some people may not approve of some of the options, but it turns out those same people sometimes find themselves in a situation where it's the only thing they can realistically do. Yes, evangelical women get abortions, too, and Catholic women. It would make sense to learn what you can about the procedure to inform your decision about having it done. It is irresponsible to have that information in a format that can make it easily available to the public, and then hide it.

The Saddest Story Ever

Was yesterday a gorgeous day or what? It started out a little chilly, but once the sun came out it was just as good as a spring day can be. I grew up in the desert, where there're no real seasons, so this is still kind of new to me, I'm surprised every year to see a real spring with new leaves and daffodils and things, autumn with actual leaves covering the ground. In Phoenix we didn't really have that, you have the hot season and the warm season, or as we call it there, the "tourist season." Today is wet here, that's all there is to it, rainy and wet. It is springtime in Maryland, with April showers.

There was a news story this week that I didn't want to talk about, but I will. I see it's on the front page of The Post again today. It's a local story, and for me it's a personal story, and I want to handle it carefully but there is something I'd like to bring out, which is that the people you read about in the newspaper are actually real people.

Amy Castillo was my kids' pediatrician. Let's say it was something I'd volunteer for, taking a kid to the doctor, because I liked this dark-eyed redhead. I enjoyed being in an examination room with her, asking her questions, hearing her answers. To me she was like a character out of Sherwood Anderson, a nervous kind of person with darting eyes and many hand gestures. I would describe her by saying that she presented a kind of uncertainty that she didn't really feel. Sentences ended unnecessarily with question marks. She'd say something and watch your face to see if you understood, or if you objected; it looked like she was hoping you would agree with her and confirm what she was saying, but really inside she knew she was right, she knew what she was talking about, she didn't really have any doubt about what she was saying. The times I did have questions for her, she would come back with an explanation that proved that the question marks were for appearances only, there was no uncertainty in her judgment, she was right and she knew it. This is a charming combination, absolute unshakeable certainty with a veneer of humility. Okay, I admit it, I had a little bit of a crush on my kids' doctor, okay? If you know me you know I'm like that sometimes.

You will have seen the stories about what happened to her. I can hardly stand to say it, her ex-husband killed their three children, drowned them in a bathtub, one by one. He did it to hurt her.

People have talked to me about this, and I find myself expressing the opposite point of view from what I feel. People look at the paperwork, the judges, the social workers and psychologists, the restraining orders, all the documentation of threats, and they want somebody to be responsible. The guy had actually threatened to kill the children to hurt their mother, he had said out loud that he knew this was the way to destroy her. How could they let him take the children?

I have two thoughts about that. For one thing, you have to wonder how the government got empowered to make these kinds of decisions. You hate to think that people need a judge to decide how they will raise their children, but I guess it's a necessary evil. If judges didn't decide, then the matter would be determined by strength or power, families would feud, it just has to be this way. As it is, women have the advantage in custody battles, I don't know if that's the best or what but it does seem there is something about mothers that deserves to be honored legally. On the other hand you'd think fathers, even bad fathers, have the right to know their children and be loved by them. Judges have to decide these things.

My other thought has to do with people who make things sound worse than they are. The question is, how many women have told a judge that they were afraid their ex would do something to the kids? I'm sorry, but I can imagine a judge sitting there all day hearing these stories, trying to sort out the exaggeration. Divorces are dirty, nasty, ugly, especially when custody is in question, and when you get lawyers involved they want to win, they know the game, and the whole thing can get ratcheted up even more. I imagine some people are going to pay for misjudgments in this particular case but I can understand how hard it is to decide, this man had said some things but he'd never acted violently, as far as I know, and you can't punish everybody who's ever said something harsh or ugly.

I will not politicize or philosophize about Amy Castillo's misery. Sometimes I think something is going bad in my life, but I have never had to suffer the profound pain that she is experiencing now. None of us have. This is the worst anyone can imagine, in fact I can't even allow my imagination to ponder this event. War, famine, rape, genocide, terrible things happen and I see it but I can't imagine this one. She has to deal with this absolutely alone, no one can console her, and the absoluteness is the horror of it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Examiner on Threats

There has been some "discussion" in our comments section about the threatening mail that was sent to Montgomery County County Council people over the gender identity nondiscrimination bill. I put that in quotes because basically it's one anonymous troll trying to act like we're making it all up. Whatever, The Examiner had a pretty good story about the matter, and they included some facts that might help us understand the situation.
A Montgomery County Council member who authored a bill that outlaws discrimination against transgendered people says she has been receiving death threats at her home and office and wants the county to provide additional security for her and her transgendered senior aide.

Officials in Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg’s office provided copies of multiple menacing and sexually explicit letters that she said were sent to her home and office through regular mail.

“Put an end to Bill 2307 or else you will not live that long,” a photocopy of one signed letter provided by Trachtenberg reads. Bill 2307 amends county laws to add gender identity discrimination to the lists of potential types of prejudice, but opponents have said they fear it will allow men access to women’s bathrooms.

A police spokesman said they have been notified about the alleged threats and are “taking appropriate measures.” Councilor getting death threats over bill to protect transgenders [Note: that link doesn't really work for me, but that's what I have]

Somebody might want to argue about the definition of hate mail, or whether this or that is a threat, but mail that tells somebody they will not live long is grounds for concern.

We know we are dealing with some nuts here, and I really hope one of them doesn't decide to be a martyr and do something. For one thing, any act of violence will generate a backlash in this county they will never recover from.
A conservative social group called “Citizens for a Responsible Government” recently turned in more than 30,000 signatures to allow voters to decide whether to repeal the measure on next November’s ballot. The group’s spokeswoman, Michelle Turner, told The Examiner her organization had nothing to do with any threats.

“It’s unfortunate that someone or some group of people has decided to take this route to express their frustration over this bill,” Turner said. “It’s certainly not anything that we would advocate.” In a letter to county officials, Trachtenberg claims she has received deaths threats over her home phone as well and that one of her senior staff members who is a transgendered woman, Dr. Dana Beyer, has also been targeted for “harassment.”

Ah, good, the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever do not advocate killing elected officials who sponsor bills they disagree with. See? It proves they are not extremists, like everybody says.

And hey, just a minute, I thought Ruth Jacobs was the President of that group, how come reporters aren't calling her for this information?
“I arrive and leave the [Council Office Building] each day with a dreaded feeling that this indeed may be the day that extremists act on their hatred and bigotry,” Trachtenberg wrote.

Trachtenberg asked the county to provide both her and Beyer with escorts when they enter and leave the office building, to regularly inspect building security cameras, to staff all public events with security and to require individuals to sign in with security when entering the County Council building. Council staff director Steve Farber said the county already provides security escorts to anybody who requests them, has police at public meetings and reviews security cameras.

Requiring people to sign in when they enter the council’s building would be a change in policy, according to Farber, that would need to be approved by the council.

“They would have to determine the value in doing that versus concerns about openness in government,” Farber said.

The thing is, this is a law that prevents discrimination against one tenth of one percent of the population, a group of people who really do get hassled and really do deserve to be treated like everybody else. Nobody's life is going to change, except perhaps for those few transgender people out there, who will be a little more sure they can get a job and keep it, get served in a restaurant, catch a taxi. Why is this, of all things, worth getting violent about?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Duchy: Hate-Mail Has Stopped

The Sentinel has a story following up the news that County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg has received threatening mail for her part in sponsoring the recent Montgomery County gender identity nondiscrimination bill. Good news, it sounds like the flow of hate-mail has stopped.
Council member Duchy Trachtenberg said the threats and death threats she received during the past three months because of a bill ensuring the civil rights of transgender individuals have stopped since she made them public over a week ago, but police are still investigating.

Trachtenberg claims she received between 35 and 40 threats at her home and office. The threats come in the wake of the County Council's unanimous passage of bill 23-07, the Gender Identity bill, in November. The bill ensures that transgender individuals are not discriminated against in the workplace or in housing.

Michelle Turner, a spokesperson for CRG, said her group doesn't encourage or support sending threats.

But the bill has generated plenty of controversy. An opposition group, Citizens for a Responsible Government, submitted a petition with about 30,000 signatures in favor of putting the bill up for a referendum vote this November. Maryland's largest gay rights group, Equality Maryland, subsequently filed a lawsuit questioning the Board of Election's validation of the petition.

CRG claims the bill would allow pedophiles and peeping toms into women's locker rooms and bathrooms. Council members maintain, however, that there is no language in the bill having to do with bathrooms or changing rooms. Some of the threats were signed, some were left anonymous and others were signed with obviously fake names, Trachtenberg said. Sharon Kass sent letters to Trachtenberg and Dr. Dana Beyer, a senior policy analyst on the councilwoman's staff, Trachtenberg said.

When asked for comment, Kass responded by sending e-mails with anti-gay literature to The Sentinel. One contained a pamphlet titled, "You Don't Have to Be Gay!: Real Answers to Questions about Homosexuality," and an article titled, "The Desire for a Sex Change: Psychiatrist says sex-change surgery is a collaboration with a mental disorder, not a treatment." Trachtenberg Says Harassment Has Stopped

Wow, there is a lot of stuff going on here. Threats stopped but the police are investigating. I believe I read somewhere that the FBI is in on it. I say: good. Some people don't know where to draw the line.

Interesting that Michelle Turner defends the CRG in this story before we have even been told what the "CRG" is. I will trust a copy editor did that and not the reporter, they softened the blow by moving that sentence up so the story didn't (cough cough lawyers told 'em cough) make it look like the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever had sent the threatening mail.

The pedophile thing, that kills me. How does discriminating against transgender people keep pedophiles out of the ladies room?

Finally, Sharon Kass. No comment. Actually, there were comments last time we mentioned her, two prominent members of the community commented on this blog to say that they had received mail from Ms. Kass. One said she wrote to his boss trying to get him in trouble at work, the other said she wrote to his wife, trying to get him in trouble at home. We call that "taking the low road."
Kass then sent another e-mail to The Sentinel in response to last week's front-page article about Trachtenberg receiving death threats. "The ex-gay movement will prevail. We have the facts," Kass said. "Superficial and biased reporting is routine in the press. You and your profession will be called to account."

Turner said that Kass is a supporter of CRG and not a full member, as Trachtenberg suggested. Theresa Rickman, CRG's director, was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

We have seen this group try to distance itself from its own representatives, for instance when their speakers at the March 2005 Hate-Fest got out of hand, and when their members threatened the school board on the old Recall web site. I would be pretty sure they have talked to their lawyers about this threatening-letter business, as it would seem there could be some liability assigned to the rabble-rousing group. But what do I know? I'm no lawyer. I just figure they might want to talk it over with the attorneys before it gets too far along.
Trachtenberg said that police are still investigating the matter so she didn't want to comment further on what legal actions might be taken. However she did say several restraining orders could result from the ordeal.

During CRG's signature gathering process, allegations of intimidation surfaced on both sides of the petition. Members of CRG claimed Beyer and other individuals harassed some people at petition sites, and those opposed to the petition claim the signature collectors misrepresented it.

Equality Maryland's lawsuit against the Montgomery County Board of Elections alleges that many of the signatures the panel validated were gathered improperly, and the board didn't fully investigate this possibility. At least one person in the suit is involved because they say the petition was misrepresented to them.

I want to know who gets restraining orders. Who do you think? Any guesses?

As for signature collectors misrepresenting the law, I'd have to say I talked to a lot of them and went to a lot of the sites, and I didn't see a single place where they were telling people that their signature would be a step toward re-legalizing discrimination against transgender people. Which would have been the truth. Lots of locker-rooms, predators, pedophiles, safety for the children, not much about discrimination.
Montgomery County Council President Mike Knapp got into a dispute with a signature gatherer in February at a polling place during the Maryland Primary. He said the petition gatherer was misinformed about what the bill did.

Bill 23-07 was scheduled to go into effect last month, but has been put on hold until the referendum vote in November, or until Equality Maryland's lawsuit overturns the petition.

"If the referendum question does make it to the ballot in November," Trachtenberg said, "I'm confident Montgomery County will vote against discrimination."

I am confident of that, too. The question is, who will spend the money to make sure the public knows this is about discrimination. Because people will also vote against creepy men waving their penises at women in the ladies locker-room. And that's what the CRW wants the vote to be about. If this goes to a vote, somebody's going to have to put up some money, buy ad time, sponsor some events, to make sure people know what they're voting for.

I'm glad the tone has settled down a little bit, and hope everybody at the County Council is safe. There is plenty of room in our community for a debate over a controversial topic, but no place for people to throw threats around.