Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Abstinence Until Marriage Is Still In

CNN is confirming that stupid abstinence-only education is included in the new health care reform bill.
The health care reform legislation that President Obama signed recently isn't only about insurance coverage -- there's also a renewal of $50 million per year for five years for abstinence-focused education.

Programs that receive this funding must "teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems," according to the Department of Health and Human Services. To qualify, they must also teach that sex before marriage is "likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." These are part of the "A-H definition," requirements for programs to receive abstinence funding under Title V of the Social Security Act. $250 million for abstinence education not evidence-based, groups say

The bill itself does not mention "abstinence until marriage" or "abstinence-only" or "purity balls" or "chastity vows," and does not explicitly call for the perpetuation of ignorance among American schoolchildren. No, it does this indirectly, on page 601:
Section 510 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 710) is amended -- (1) in subsection (a), by striking ‘‘fiscal year 1998 and each subsequent fiscal year’’ and inserting ‘‘each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014’’; and (2) in subsection (d) -- (A) in the first sentence, by striking ‘‘1998 through 2003’’ and inserting ‘‘2010 through 2014’’; and (B) in the second sentence, by inserting ‘‘(except that such appropriation shall be made on the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the case of fiscal year 2010)’’ before the period.

Other mentions of the word "abstinence" in the health care bill talk about "abstinence and contraception." The Social Security Act that is mentioned carries the A-H criteria that are so offensive. It received funding at $50 million a year for the next five years.

Funding for abstinence-only education had been dropped from the President's 2010 budget.

From CNN:
"Just the fact that we continue to pour money into programs that have no evidence of effectiveness at all just doesn't seem to us to be good evidence-based health policy," said Heather Boonstra, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive and sexual health research firm.

There have been numerous studies suggesting that it's not so easy for people to practice abstinence consistently. A congressionally mandated study in 2007 found that none of four abstinence programs showed a significant positive effect on sexual behavior among youth. A January 2009 study in Pediatrics found that religious teens who take virginity pledges are less likely to use condoms or birth control when they become sexually active, and just as likely to have sex before marriage as their peers who didn't take pledges.

Medical professional organizations also criticize abstinence education on ethical grounds, for leaving out potentially lifesaving information. Abstinence-only programs "are inherently coercive by withholding information needed to make informed choices," the American Public Health Association said in a statement.

This was apparently a compromise negotiated to get the bill passed. I would like to hear who is responsible for it -- it has to be a Democrat, since no Republican voted for the bill, so which one?
States have the option of tapping into the $50 million or not, but those who want it have to contribute also, Boonstra noted. For every $4 of federal money, states have to put up $3 of their own money, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

As of June 2009, 22 states, plus Washington D.C., had declined to apply for funds under the program, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

It's not exactly free money, it's more like a subsidy for propagandizing to young people.

This is interesting...
A study published in February in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that an abstinence-based program was more effective than other initiatives at keeping sixth- and seventh-graders from having sex within a two-year period.

Rather than asking students to delay intercourse until marriage, however, the program told students to wait until they were ready. It also did not portray sex in a negative light.

For these reasons, it is unclear whether that program would qualify for funding from the $50 million allocated in the health care bill, because it does not fit the A-H definition, said Bill Albert of the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Boonstra agreed that it would likely not fit this category, as it differs from the programs that have received funding in the past. Huber said she thought it would qualify, although she has not seen the curriculum.

It's better to invest taxpayer dollars into what works, Albert said. Public opinion surveys reveal that Americans view abstinence and contraceptive education as complementary, not contradictory.

"There is great and very wide support among parents and among teens themselves that young people should be encouraged to delay sexual activity," Albert said. "But it is also clear that the American public wants young people to receive information about contraception."

So the one abstinence program that has been shown to work probably won't qualify for funding under this Social Security Act, great.

CNN handles the topic well here, nobody is "stupefied," there is no exaggerated polarization of opinions.

I think is is sad that the Democrats voted to continue the born-again "abstinence until marriage" faux-educational policies, states that accept the money for that will be doing their young people a disservice. Some of the other sex-education programs funded in the health-care bill are positive -- abstinence and contraception, innovation, those are good ideas. I'm sorry this junk is still in there, it is not a good sign. It was tricky getting that health-care bill passed, and I hate to think some Democrat forced the bill's authors to include it but apparently that's what happened. It's just the same old political game.

Is Global Warming Slowing Down?

Just in case you've been hearing different.

From Scientific American:
Global warming has neither stopped nor slowed in the past decade, according to a draft analysis of temperature data by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The analysis, led by Goddard director Jim Hansen, attempts to debunk popular belief that the planet is cooling. It finds that global temperatures over the past decade have "continued to rise rapidly," despite large year-to-year fluctuations associated with the tropical El Niño–La Niña cycles.

The analysis also predicts, assuming current El Niño conditions hold, that 2010 will go down in history as the hottest year on record despite an unusually snowy winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Has Global Warming Slowed?

Course this bozo doesn't know half of what Glenn Beck knows about it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is The Post Right About This?

Part of the problem with a two-thousand page health care bill is that we have to have it interpreted for us by reporters. And they have not necessarily read the thing themselves -- often journalists are reporting on an interpretation that an involved party has presented to them: spin. I am thinking that the Washington Post might have something importantly wrong here, but I am not going to wade through all that text of the new health care reform bill to see if they do.
A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage.

The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama's first two budgets.

"We're very happy to see that funding will continue so the important sexual health message of risk avoidance will reach American teens," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, a Washington-based lobbying group. "What better place to see such an important health issue addressed than in the health legislation?"

But the funding was condemned by critics, who were stupefied by the eleventh-hour rescue.

"To spend a quarter-billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have already been proven to fail is reckless and irresponsible," said James Wagoner of the Washington group Advocates for Youth. "When on top of that you add the fact that this puts the health and lives of young people at risk, this becomes outrageous." Health bill restores $250 million in abstinence-education funds

Here's my question -- do you think the words "until marriage" actually appear in the bill?

And really -- stupefied???

Contrast The Post with a Christian publication called
One unnoticed portion of the healthcare overhaul bill restores $250 million in funding over five years for programs that encourage youth to delay having sex. The Obama administration had cut $170 million in abstinence program funding from the annual budget – so this move, providing $50 million a year for the programs, doesn’t fully restore funding.

Some critics of abstinence education aren’t happy:
“To spend a quarter-billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have already been proven to fail is reckless and irresponsible,” said James Wagoner of the Washington group Advocates for Youth. “When on top of that you add the fact that this puts the health and lives of young people at risk, this becomes outrageous.”

We noted on the blog back in February that a new federally funded study showed these programs have been effective in delaying sexual debuts. Could that be the reason the funds were restored? It’s unclear. These programs – the ones that have been successful according to the study – don’t focus on saving sex for marriage, but simply encourage teens to delay having sex. Healthcare bill restores funding for abstinence programs

Though they are relying on The Post for their information, I suspect that the interpretation is more accurate. I expect we will discover that the health bill funds classes that encourage young teens to delay having sex. Maybe one of our readers will download the entire health reform bill and scan it for the words "until marriage" and tell us what they find.

I support comprehensive sex education for teens. I think it's best for young people to understand everything about how their bodies work, they should understand the emotions they will experience after puberty, the effects of peer pressure, the risks of sexually transmitted disease and the responsibilities of pregnancy and parenthood. I think they should have all the facts so they can make good decisions.

And I think teenagers should abstain from sex until they are ready for it.

Something like one to two percent of Americans are virgins when they marry. "Abstinence until marriage" is a pie in the sky, there's no sense even talking about it, it's not going to happen. You tell students they should be abstinent until they marry and they are going to roll their eyes and blow you off. And never mind the gay ones who might never be allowed to marry.

The Bush administration funded absurd, religious-based abstinence "education" that included stuff like "purity balls" and chastity vows, the administration had a checklist of things that had to be included for the curriculum to qualify for funding, and it was as bad as Sunday school. For instance, you couldn't teach students how to use a condom properly and receive the federal funding. I don't know what's in the Obama bill, but if there is funding for schools to give persuasive, fact-based arguments and evidence to young students about why it is better not to have sex until you're older, I have nothing against that.

I am going to pick some numbers out of the Post article that I think indicate what the funding is actually for:
As part of Obama's first budget, Congress approved a request for more than $110 million for a new "teenage pregnancy prevention" initiative that would fund only programs that have been "proven effective through rigorous evaluation," effectively excluding abstinence programs.

The initiative includes $25 million for new, innovative programs that could potentially embrace those encouraging abstinence. A University of Pennsylvania researcher reported last month that a carefully designed, morally neutral abstinence-focused approach can work. But the program does not earmark funding for programs focused on maintaining virginity.

During the health legislation debate in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) added $50 million in annual funding for five years to states for abstinence programs -- a provision that survived the tumultuous process that ensued.

So far I'm not hearing the words "until marriage," are you?
The legislation also includes $75 million a year over five years for a new "personal responsibility education" program, which would fund programs that teach youths about abstinence and contraception.

Okay, who's against that? That sounds like the curriculum in a nutshell. Personal responsibility, yay! The message should be, don't rush into having sex, but when you are ready for it you should use a condom, for this-and-this-and-this reasons.

Just to remind you, Valerie Huber is the executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, which promotes abstinence until marriage.
But Huber said it was unlikely that "abstinence-only" programs would be eligible for that funding, meaning that about 130 programs serving an estimated 1.5 million youths that had been getting funding directly from the federal government will still lose their funding in September.

"That's very troubling. This is not a time to be limiting solutions," Huber said.

So these Biblical, shame-and-fear-based abstinence propaganda programs will be losing their funding. There will be funding for teaching personal responsibility for your own sexual behavior. I'm not seeing a big problem here.

I see The Post's framing of this issue as a set-up. They want their readers to think that liberals are somehow in favor of teen sex, like we're "stupefied" that anyone would tell young people not to have sex until they're ready for it. But in reality, I think everyone on our side agrees that sex is a big responsibility that requires some maturity. We want our kids to delay the decision to have sex until they are ready, that is, until they are mentally mature, responsible, and well-informed about the consequences of their behavior, and are in a long-term relationship where they can trust the other person. Young teens should be given good, valid reasons to delay their leap into adult sexuality. The born-again programs implemented by the Bush administration were a farce and an insult to all thinking people, but it does not look to me -- reading through the filter of reporters' descriptions of something they probably have not themselves read -- like Congress just passed a bill requiring schools to teach about "abstinence until marriage."

If the words "until marriage" are in the bill, then we have something else to talk about. If they are not then the Washington Post is simply publishing falsehoods, trying to inflame a debate that should be conducted at a cool temperature. If those words are not in the bill then I think a major published correction is in order.

All the sources that I find online that mention "abstinence until marriage" cite this same Post article. I will be curious to see if any of that ridiculous stuff is in the bill. The indications are that a somewhat reasonable approach to abstinence education is funded. I don't have any problem with schools convincing young teens not to have sex, do you? As long as they do it with facts, and give students the facts they need, and educate them about risks and how to deal with them.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Frum Out for Heresy

David Frum posted a good article online Sunday. He's a conservative guy, but he analyzed the Republicans' situation after losing the health care fight, and I thought he had it just right. My favorite paragraph was near the end.
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal? Waterloo

Read it, he's a Republican, a smart guy, he is conservative in the old-fashioned sense, and he sees exactly what's going on. He criticized the GOP for refusing to negotiate with the Democrats on health reform, and compared their loss on that issue to Napoleon's historic and catastrophic loss at Waterloo.

For that, he's now out of a job.

Here's the Washington Post:
Three days after calling health-care reform a debacle for Republicans, David Frum was forced out of his job at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday.

The ouster also came one day after a harsh Wall Street Journal editorial ripped the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, saying he "now makes his living as the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans" and accusing him of "peddling bad revisionist history."

Frum made clear, in a letter to AEI President Arthur C. Brooks, that his departure after seven years as a resident fellow at the conservative think tank was not voluntary. "I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute," he wrote, "and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship." Conservative David Frum loses think tank job after criticizing GOP

Yeah, man, this was a don't-let-the-door-hit-ya invitation to clear out his office and leave.

The Republican Party realized they could get energy and publicity by stirring up a certain element, and up to a point it worked. They built their national campaign around the anger that people feel when fate seems to have turned against them. Everybody feels like that at some time, but most people have the good sense to solve their own problems and not blame the government. The Republicans told people it was the government's fault, they harnessed the anger and frustration of real life and put it to work for them, but in the end that approach goes to hell. Anger is not productive, angry people don't understand how things work, they just want to strike out. And call people names, and spit on people and throw bricks through their windows and stuff. You can't really base a political philosophy on it, but if enough people are frustrated you can win some elections. And then you end up with The Bush Years. Incompetence. Corruption. Failure.

Frum is a real conservative, with an actual political philosophy beyond just winning elections. He wrote honestly about what happened this past week, the Democrats beat the Republicans in a high stakes game, and really the Republicans blew it. They thought they could stop health care reform by saying no and taking the Democrats for weaklings; they underestimated their enemy, and you can't do that.

Time will tell if he is right or wrong about this being the Republicans' Waterloo, of course, but at this moment he is expressing a very reasonable opinion. And that's the problem. In today's Republican Party, you don't use reason, you use faith. They don't want to hear that they screwed up, they want to hear that the Democrat Party screwed up. And if you say the wrong thing, you're out.

You saw the votes on the health care bills. Republicans: zero. Not a single one of them dared go against the party, and here's why, look what happened to Frum. Democrats were split on everything, yeah it's a hard way to build a winning majority but every Democratic Congressman makes up his own mind, everyone feels they can use his or her own free intellect to decide what they think is best, it's not a herd, it's a coalition of autonomous individuals. The word for the Republicans may be "No," but there is a principle even more fundamental than that, and that is fear of nonconformity. Keyword "lockstep." They were the Party of No because they were told to be the Party of No, and none of them had the courage to think on his or her own. Their brand of enforced lockstep conformity is not healthy, it is not a good way to solve problems, it is destructive, and it is not working for them as a political party

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Harris Poll Shows Gullible Righties

A Harris poll released today shows that, in fact, there are some nutty people out there. From March 1st to March 8th, in the middle of the health care debate, the pollsters asked Americans what they believe about President Obama, and found the following agreement with these statements in the general population:
  • He is a socialist (40%)
  • He wants to take away Americans' right to own guns (38%)
  • He is a Muslim (32%)
  • He wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government (29%)
  • He has done many things that are unconstitutional (29%)
  • He resents America's heritage (27%)
  • He does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do (27%)
  • He was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (25%)
  • He is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitutions speaks of (25%)
  • He is a racist (23%)
  • He is anti-American (23%)
  • He wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers (23%)
  • He is doing many of the things that Hitler did (20%)
  • He may be the Anti-Christ (14%)
  • He wants the terrorists to win (13%)
"Wingnuts" and President Obama

These results reveal some profound insanity going on. Almost one person in eight believes the President of the United States wants the terrorists to win. I cannot comprehend the kind of mind that could reach that conclusion. What must it be like, walking down the street knowing that most of the people around you voted for the guy who wants the terrorists to win? What kind of evidence does a person come up with to support the conclusion that the President of the United States wants the terrorists to win?

And even more people than that think he may be the Anti-Christ. Unfortunately they didn't ask if he might be a changeling, or an alien, or a shape-shifting unicorn. The Anti-Christ! Because he wants to stop health insurance companies from canceling policies when people get sick?

And those are the low-ranking items. Nearly a third of people -- that is one out of every three of your neighbors -- believe that the church-going President is a Muslim. More people than that think he wants to take away our right to own guns. Where do they get that?

The political breakdown is not surprising. Blogger doesn't let me make HTML tables, so I'll try to format some results as well as I can from the Harris press release (R=Republican, D=Democrat, IND=Independent):

He is a socialist 67 14 42
He wants to take away
Americans' right to own guns 61 17 39
He is a Muslim 57 15 29
He wants to turn over the
sovereignty of the United States
to a one world government 51 12 28
He has done many things that
are unconstitutional 55 9 27
He resents America's heritage 47 12 27
He does what Wall Street and
the bankers tell him to do 40 15 27
He was not born in the United
States and so is not eligible to
be president 45 8 24
He is a domestic enemy that the
U.S. Constitutions speaks of 45 8 24
He is a racist 42 7 22
He is anti-American 41 7 22
He wants to use an economic
collapse or terrorist attack as an
excuse to take dictatorial
powers 41 8 21
He is doing many of the things
that Hitler did 38 6 19
He may be the Anti-Christ 24 6 13
He wants the terrorists to win 22 5 12

I think it is most telling to see how results shake out by education level.

(<=HS = high school or less, <BA = some college, BA = college graduate, >BA = post graduate):

He is a socialist 45 38 42 20
He wants to take away
Americans' right to own guns 45 37 32 19
He is a Muslim 43 30 24 9
He wants to turn over the
sovereignty of the United States
to a one world government 37 28 21 12
He has done many things that
are unconstitutional 35 28 26 13
He resents America's heritage 31 26 25 18
He does what Wall Street and
the bankers tell him to do 35 24 20 11
He was not born in the United
States and so is not eligible to
be president 32 22 21 7
He is a domestic enemy that the
U.S. Constitutions speaks of 32 23 17 10
He is a racist 28 22 20 9
He is anti-American 27 22 20 9
He wants to use an economic
collapse or terrorist attack as an
excuse to take dictatorial
powers 28 21 18 11
He is doing many of the things
that Hitler did 24 20 18 10
He may be the Anti-Christ 18 13 9 4
He wants the terrorists to win 16 11 11 6

Not surprisingly, people with fewer years of education tend to believe more of the crazy stuff, that the President of the United States is a socialist, a Muslim, the Anti-Christ, that he wants the terrorists to win, and so on. One theme that you will hear from the conservatives is contempt for "the elite," that is, educated people, as if those folks think they know more than the rest of us. In fact, people with advanced degrees do know more than people with high school diplomas or less, that's what the concept of education is all about.

This interesting survey shows Republicans and less well educated people holding bizarre beliefs about the President, beliefs that have been shown to be false, though perhaps not on Fox. We don't know if there is a third variable, for instance, certain kinds of people may tend to choose not to seek an education and also believe that the President is a Muslim, but I think it is likely that education itself is the causal variable, individuals learn through education to seek out correct information, to hold a higher standard for information they allow to influence them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bricks Through Windows

Did you see the video where the Texas Republican, Randy Neugebauer, yelled out "baby killer" while Bart Stupak was speaking in the House of Representatives? It is fascinating to call Stupak, of all people, a "baby killer," after he held up the whole legislative process in order to force Congress to accept his anti-abortion viewpoint. There are plenty of pro-choice members of Congress, it just seems weird to yell this that at the one guy who insisted until the last minute that there should be some draconian anti-abortion wording in the health reform bill.

You wonder how much uglier things will get. Now you have Republicans and teabaggers spitting on elected officials, calling them racial and homophobic names, threatening to shoot people, you have them interrupting the President and Congressional speakers with insulting name-calling and schoolyard accusations. Meanwhile the party in power is working to do what they were elected to do. Primarily they need to un-do eight years of Bush incompetence and greed. But beyond that, they have to put new programs into place to reposition America as the world leader we like to think we are. And they have to do it by themselves -- you will have noticed that not one Republican in the House had the courage to defy peer pressure and support health care reform. Not one. For them it's about power, it's about banding together to win the next election, never mind that people are dying without medical attention in our country.

From the Wichita Eagle:
Authorities in Wichita and some other cities across the country are investigating vandalism against Democratic offices, apparently in response to health care reform.

And on Monday, a former Alabama militia leader took credit for instigating the actions.

Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern "Sons of Liberty" to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita.

"There's glass everywhere," said Lyndsay Stauble, executive director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party. "A brick took out the whole floor-to-ceiling window and put a gouge in my desk."

Stauble said the brick, hurled through the window between Friday night and Saturday morning, had "some anti-Obama rhetoric" written on it.

Vandals also smashed the front door and a window at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office in Tucson early Monday, hours after the Arizona Democrat voted for the health care reform package.

Over the weekend, a brick shattered glass doors at the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Attached to the brick was a note that said, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" — a quote from Barry Goldwater's 1964 acceptance speech as the Republican presidential candidate.

And on Friday, a brick broke a window at Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Slaughter, a Democrat, was a vocal supporter of the health care reform bill passed by the House on Sunday. Democratic offices in Wichita, elsewhere vandalized

Here in Montgomery County, Maryland, we faced a challenge from these people a few years ago. Rather than debate the merits of various approaches to sex education, rather than reason and compromise, the Citizens for Responsible Whatever took the low road. They misconstrued the sex-ed curriculum, made up things, attacked officials personally, they did what they could to disrupt the process of curriculum development. They weren't trying to improve it, they were trying to stop it. The school district would have been supportive of more or less conservative views in the curriculum, but the CRW made negotiation impossible. They simply opposed everything.

When the county considered a bill extending nondiscrimination considerations to gender identity, we saw the same thing, from the same group. They made up their perverts-in-the-ladies room stories and said the most terrible things they could about transgender people, ignoring the focal topic of discrimination and instead fighting against change.

I think those people have been well dealt with in our county. It makes sense to mock them and oppose them with humor and knowledge, with facts and reason and a healthy, cheerful, positive attitude. They aren't serious about improving our society, they only want to oppose changes. They tried to stop progress in our county and they failed, but they got a foothold in less fortunate communities around the country, and now we are seeing their true colors as they organize on the national level. Throwing bricks when you don't get your way, that's making a statement, all right.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform Passes the House

This was a tough fight, won by the good guys.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Teabaggers Fighting Health Care, and Sanity

Looking out there this morning it's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we had snow almost up to our waists. With its ancient inevitability nature brings us back from the desolation of winter. Somebody said it was seventy-five yesterday. How soon before you hear people complaining that it's too hot?

This morning we see headlines like House is expected to pass historic healthcare overhaul. This really is a big deal. Only a month ago the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, opening the way for big business to out-influence real humans at every step of the way, and now Congress is taking a stand against big corporations, on behalf of real humans. That headline comes from the LA Times, and it starts like this:
The hard-fought measure would be a victory for President Obama - and, he says, for the American people.

Maybe the President is grandstanding in the most cynical way when he says this isn't about politics, but the fact is, he has let the other party run him into the ground over this. A lot of Congressmen in both houses are going to pay dearly for taking a stand on this bill, which the Republicans and Fox News have painted in the darkest colors as socialism and worse, government takeover of our personal choices. But it looks like the votes are there, the Democrats are putting their foot down, they're saying, We were elected to change things and we're going to do it as long as we are here. And maybe the American people would prefer, in the end, to have gigantic corporations making their health decisions for them, maybe the healthy majority doesn't want to share the risk with sick people, and maybe when the smoke clears the Republicans will be elected to run things the usual way again.

March 16th, the teabaggers organized a "Code Red" demonstration at the White House out of desperation at the momentum that the health care package seemed to be picking up. About three hundred people showed up, in other words the event was a failure. I suppose the most publicity they got was THIS VIDEO of teabaggers mocking a man with Parkinsons disease, throwing dollar bills at him and calling him names. They seem very agitated in this video.

There was a documentary filmed that day as well, an interviewer asked people how they felt about specific provisions of the health care bill HERE. As you see, they don't really know what's in the bill except that it's a socialized government takeover and Obama wants to turn America into Ameristan.

This past Friday the Citizens for Responsible Whatever, and I assume lots of other rightwing groups, sent out an urgent email that said:
Obama's Healthcare Take-Over must be stopped. It's not over yet. We need everyone to show up at the rally tomorrow at 12 noon. Come early or stay late to visit your Representative's office.

Yesterday's demonstration was more of a success for fringe groups like the CRW. The New York Times reports:
They might want to think about renaming it the Nastea Party.

Democrats were angered, shocked and disappointed after reports that some Tea Party activists let more than their opinions on health care reform be known today, calling revered civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) n——- and openly gay Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank a f——-.

And racism and gay-bashing apparently wasn’t all. Add anti-Semitism to the list.

A staffer in Rep. Anthony Weiner’s office reported a stream of hostile encounters with tea partiers roaming the halls of Congress. The less harmful stuff was mockery. But they left a couple of notes behind. One asked what Rahm Emanuel did with Weiner in the shower, in a reference to mess around ex-Rep Eric Massa. It was signed with a swastika, the staffer said. The other note called the congressman “Schlomo Weiner,” among other hate-filled words.

Rep. Jose Serrano was so disturbed, he called to relay his own unpleasant encounter with a Tea Party activist who accosted him outside, when Serrano went for a stroll near the rally.

“The Capitol there was pretty ugly,” Serrano sad. “They were shouting, ‘Don’t take away my Medicare, we don’t want socialism, you’re throwing our country away.’”

“There was a person who saw me go by, and called me a bunch of things, and ended calling me an elitist pig with a cutesy haircut,” Serrano, of the Bronx, said.

It wasn’t the words so much that bothered the congressman, but the tone and attitude.

And the words heard by Lewis were especially distasteful to Serrano. Lewis is a widely respected member of Congress who had his skull fractured by police in a 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala.

“He’s the conscience of the Congress,” Serrano said.

It all reminded him of the worst reactions to the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war protests. It was the kind of reaction, he said, that you get “whenever you’re trying to do something really important.” Make That the Nas-Tea Party

Some of them were threatening violence. Think Progress showed photos of people holding signs that said, "If Brown can't stop it, a Browning can," with a silhouette of a pistol. Talking Points Memo reports:
Things are getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress.

As our Brian Beutler reports, a few moments ago in the Longworth office building, a group swarmed a very calm looking Henry Waxman, as he got on the elevator, with shouts of "Kill the bill!" "You liar! You crook!"

Not long before, Rep. Barney Frank got an uglier version of the treatment. Just after Frank rounded a corner to leave the building, an older protestor yelled "Barney, you faggot." The surrounding crowd of protestors then erupted in laughter. Menacing

The LA Times disclosed:
A congressman who was spat on by a protestor on Capitol Hill says he is declining to press charges, but turns out the Capitol Police say they made no arrests.

Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver was making his way through a group of angry protestors when the incident occurred. It was one of several ugly incidents in a day of protests against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul measure, which faces a House vote on Sunday.

Cleaver, who is black, was also one of several lawmakers who faced racial epithets as they walked to the Capitol to vote. Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police said in an e-mail later: "We did not make any arrests today." Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., won't press charges after being spat on by Capitol Hill protestor

There may have been 20,000 people at yesterday's event, it was more successful by far than the one earlier in the week.

A few years ago, Tea Party types were beginning to have influence in our little suburban county, the school district was begining to take them seriously, and somebody had to stand up and deal with them, and that was us. Lots of communities let those groups taste power, and now they are running around threatening to shoot people, waving Confederate flags, spitting on Congressmen, calling people names, yelling that they want their country back. I think it is pretty clear to the rest of us that they must not have "their country" back. They had it for eight years, and things did not work out.

Today's health care reform vote is an important one. Some Democratic Congressmen are holding out for details they want, and in fact I don't think the bill as it is written is anybody's ideal. I expect some hold-outs to switch and vote for it -- health insurance has become a ghoulish scam, and I don't think a legislator can vote against reform in good conscience, just because the bill doesn't contain his or her pet feature. It's not a done deal, we don't even know if they'll vote today, but it does seem likely. I doubt that Nancy Pelosi will call for a vote if it won't pass, so she might wait. But it's coming.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Notes From the Health Care Reform Front Lines

This might be the week that Congress holds a historic vote to reform health care. We have made a few comments here on the blog about the issue, but it is not exactly our focus. We are more of a community group and we seem to emphasize education and LGBT topics. I think our readers can probably guess where we stand on health care, it is not an official TTF mission or anything but many of our officers and board members are active in politics and community affairs not strictly limited to this group's core focus.

Our president, Christine Grewell, has been active in the health-care reform movement, and readers here might like to know what she has been doing. So I asked her to write up something for the blog describing some of the activities she has been involved in. The following is her report:
I first got involved in the health care issue back in early September, when was looking for people to tell others about their problems with the broken health care system. Several of us with stories of mistreatment by our health insurance companies spoke to a group of about two hundred people, including Ike Leggett, Jamie Raskin, Sheila Hixson and other community leaders, in Silver Spring. Shortly after that many of us participated in a protest in front of the White House, and later in September I again told my story at a "funeral for Big Insurance" in Rockville (video HERE).

January 26th I was part of a big demonstration at the US Chamber of Commerce office in Washington, DC. About 20 health insurance survivors came to Washington DC to tell our stories to the Chamber of Commerce and to ask them to stop advertising on behalf of the companies that caused us such grief. Leslie Boyd was there for her 30 year old son who died because he couldn't get coverage due to a childhood pre-existing condition. Heather Mroz was there because at 24 years of age, she is now $480,000 in debt because her health insurance company retroactively rescinded her health insurance coverage to 2 months before premature twins were born. The Chamber of Commerce is acting as a front group for the insurance companies, spending millions of dollars to maintain the very profitable status quo. There's video of that protest at the Washington Post web site HERE. (The Post spelled my name wrong HERE and described me as a real estate agent, which I am not.)

Later that same day, after the march at the Chamber of Commerce, I testified in a hearing on Capitol Hill chaired by Congressman John Conyers.

Then on the 30th several of us health insurance survivors stood out in the snow in Baltimore outside the meeting of the Republican Caucus, as you can see in the video HERE.

A group of Pennsylvanians marched from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, between February 17th and 24th in honor of Melanie Shouse, a health care reform activist who died January 30th of breast cancer after she could not afford the cancer treatments that would have saved her life.

February 23rd I met Melanie's March in College Park and then on the 24th marched with them in DC to the Dirksen Building, where we met with a group of Senators including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Bob Casey, and Senator Sherrod Brown. Video from that meeting is found HERE. As you can see, it was a very enthusiastic group, there was already a lot of momentum to this movement, which is growing even stronger now as Congress comes near to voting.

March 9th, 24 health insurance survivors participated in the "citizens arrest" of insurance company executives at the Ritz Carlton in DC. Five thousand or so people marched to the building, chanting and listening to speeches. Some were taken away by the police but released without arrest. Video HERE and HERE. I was honored to meet and talk with Dr. Howard Dean at that event.

The next day, March 10th, all 24 of us survivors testified in a hearing for the House of Representatives. I was accompanied by Congressman Chris Van Hollen, as part of a panel moderated by CIGNA executive turned whistleblower Wendell Potter. Ed Schultz from "The Ed Show" was there, and he had Leslie Boyd and Heather Mroz from the hearing on his show that night. Video HERE. Marcelas Owens, an 11-year-old from Seattle whose mother died because of lack of insurance coverage, testified with his grandmother in that panel, and now is being slammed by Rush Limbaugh as "an 11-year-old kid being forced to tell this story all over just to benefit the Democrat Party and Barack Obama." Michelle Malkin called him a "kiddie human shield." You wonder how cynical somebody has to be to criticize a kid who is trying to help other people keep their mothers after he lost his. Lawrence O'Donnell subbing for Keith Olbermann had Marcelas on his show this week, countering the conservatives' allegations (video HERE). There were a number of Congressional Representatives at the meeting, and afterward the survivors went to individual Congressional offices to talk with people, not all of them friendly to health care reform. I visited the offices of Representatives Cantor and Ney.

That, people, is grassroots activism, starting in a park in Silver Spring and ending up speaking to Senators and Congressmen.

As the vote draws near and the decibels are ratcheting up, it is time for everyone to make their views clear to their people in Congress. The phone number for the Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Call up, get your Representative's or your Senator's office on the line, tell them what you want them to do.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dumb Video from Mass Resistance

A couple of years ago our Montgomery County, Maryland, County Council passed a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity. It was an innocuous thing, a couple of words added to the usual race religion national origin etcetera, but a certain tiny element in our community tried to make it into something it wasn't. They asserted that transgender people are dangerous somehow, that they are a sexual threat. They tried to assert that if you couldn't discriminate against transgender people, the inevitable result would be sexual predators and pedophiles hanging around in women's restrooms, molesting women and children with no legal consequences. Of course the premises are incorrect and that didn't happen.

Sometimes the doctor is wrong when a baby is born. There are many ways it can happen, sometimes a boy is raised as a girl or vice versa, and at some point that person may decide to take responsibility for correcting the mistake. If the decision is made after puberty the individual may have features that correspond to the sex they do not identify with, for instance a woman may have a deep voice or whiskers or a man may have developed breasts and a woman's figure, and so the transition may seem awkward or confusing to others, it may make someone uncomfortable struggling with pronouns and appropriate gender roles. Most of us can get over that, but some small number of people simply find it unacceptable and frightening that anyone would make the decision to live as the person they really are.

A bunch of those people, apparently, live in Massachusetts. There is a group up there that calls themselves Mass Resistance, their main thrust is that they oppose gay and transgender people, in the most ignorant way.

This week Mass Resistance posted a video on YouTube. Last year these creepy people went to the Tiffany Club of New England’s (TCNE) annual conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the United States, in Peabody, Massachusetts, and took video of people going in and out of the bathrooms. This is a conference that addresses the needs of transgender people, from sessions on surgical options and family support to legal and spiritual topics.

The video can be seen HERE. It is a grainy thing, probably done with a cell phone, you can just imagine these people cruising the halls of the Peabody Marriott, taking shocking footage of transgender people going into the bathroom and getting on elevators and eating and other shocking things.

The explanatory text at YouTube says this:
Transgender madness in Massachusetts: The Peabody Marriott Hotel hosted the annual "First Event" transgender conference on January 15-17, 2009. These photos and videos illustrate the insanity that will descend on all of America . . . unless this sexual radical movement is stopped: Seven-foot men in dresses using the women's restroom. Hundreds of cross-dressers swarming the hotel, upsetting other guests (who were not forewarned). A transgender rock concert.

This is what protecting "gender identity and expression" really means.

Mass. Bill H1728 (now before the Legislature) would punish any opposition to such madness with fines and jail time. Even schools would be opened up to cross-dressing children, transgender restrooms and locker rooms, and sports teams. Employers would be subject to new non-discrimination regulations. (At the federal level, ENDA would force this on the country if passed.)

You almost can't read this without feeling all sarcastic inside. I will try to suppress the urge.

The video alternates between amateurish text screens and amateurish recorded video from the conference. First there is a title screen giving the name and location of the conference. Then we see a pile of snow outside what is apparently a hotel.

Next, text:
This is what you will see across America...

unless this radical movement is stopped

That radical movement being, we assume, people who transition to their subjective sex.

Next we are shown a screen with a picture of a poster that says "Welcome to the Peabody Marriott." The camera zooms in on the poster. There are crowd noises. The camera turns to some blurry people walking around.

Text with a blurry, dark photo behind it:
Man in miniskirt with blond hair

There is a photograph of a woman standing there with papers in her hand, talking to someone.

Text with another picture behind it:
Tall man in pink jacket with another man (long hair) at his side ...

Uh, I see a lady in a pink jacket. There are other people in the picture.

Now a screen of text:
Other hotel guests had not been told the transgender group would be having a conference there that weekend. (That would have been "discrimination"!)

If I may refer to a personal experience here ... the worst hotel stay I ever had was in Indianapolis one time when the hotel was full of a convention of Seventh Day Adventists. Those people were up and down the halls all night yelling and stomping around, they'd be sitting on the floor in the hall when you opened your door, spilling food on the floor, they jammed the lobby making noise, it was terrible. Other guests were not told that the Seventh Day Adventists would be there. In fact, I have never heard of a hotel telling guests what groups are planning conferences during their stay. It's not discrimination, it just doesn't make sense. "All right, Mister Jones, that will be a party of four, two adults and two children, two double beds, nonsmoking, on January Seventeenth. We will be having a wedding reception in the banquet room and the Southeastern Iowa Agricultural Engineering Association will be holding their annual budget meeting that day in the conference center. Will that still be acceptable to you?"

Next there is a picture of a lady in a skirt and sweater, it looks like, conservatively dressed, possibly with a bag on her arm, and text:
Elderly cross-dresser

Ah, now they are getting to the juicy part. A black screen with stern black san-serif text set in an ominous purple cloud.
Several young girls were seen in the company of transgender men. (Workshops included "trans youth">)

The following clip shows a young girl entering an elevator with a man dressed as a woman.

The camera careens around the room, over the ceiling, finally settling on a couple of girls getting into an elevator. The taller one appears to be texting on a cell phone. You know, transgender people have families, they have children. These two people look like family to me, or friends. I would say sisters, maybe it is a parent and child, I can't tell. I think we are supposed to think it is a sexual predator and "his" victim, and it certainly is not. Some people get off the elevator. I wonder if they know they are being videotaped by lurking conservatives.

Next, a screen of text, now black text on a blue cloud...
Many of the men dressed as women were well over 6' tall, and some almost 7' tall.

I am choking down the sarcasm here, ok? Give me some credit. Why would it matter how tall a transgender person is?

And let's make this clear. When they say "men dressed as women" or when they call these women "transgender men" or "male cross-dressers" they are merely insulting the attendees of the conference. Gender is not binary, it is a continuum, and there are people who do not fall neatly into one category or the other. The reasonable resolution is to refer to them by the label they prefer. Maybe it's just politeness, but it's as good a rule as any.

Next they show a still photo of someone walking in the hallway, with this text:
A huge man about to use the women's restroom.

Another screen...
This fellow almost hits his head on the door frame.

Now a screen of text:
In the following video, very large men in women's clothing are proudly and openly using the women's restroom in the hotel lobby.

The scene starts with a long shot of a row of phones and a door, then we have a close-up of the door, which says "Women" on it. Then there is video of some men and women standing around talking, then two women go into the ladies room, one comes out, another goes in, some people walk by. Text appears in front of the scene that says:
The cleaning lady in the following scene provides a good sense of scale...

A woman who we assume is the cleaning lady opens the door and walks in. She appears to be about five feet tall. The women going into the ladies room did not almost hit their heads on the door frame, BTW.

Somebody comes out of the ladies room, and -- ooh, this is exciting! -- a tall woman enters the restroom! She also does not almost hit her head on the door frame, but she may be five foot ten or so, which is pretty tall for a woman. A lady is standing in the hall, the cleaning lady pulls her cart over and stands beside her. They appear to be the same size. Other short women walk past, and another lady goes into the ladies room. Most of the crowd appears to be women. A bald man walks through the group. I wonder if there is something sinister about him. If there is, I can't spot it in this video. Almost everyone is nicely dressed, I don't see any blue jeans here, lots of expensive-looking dresses.

Aha! They have spotted something. Text appears on the screen:
Looks like the cleaning lady has brought in reinforcements.

And sure enough, we see two probably-Hispanic women in uniforms enter the ladies room. One appears to have towels, maybe paper towels, in her hand. Are transgender women supposed to be messier than cis-women or something? I don't get this part.

A man in a turtleneck sweater walks past. He is walking fast. There is no text noting that he is freaked out and scared to death by all the scary weirdos surrounding him. Maybe he's not.

The restroom door seems to be propped open, and we see the cleaning-ladies' cart pass back and forth. Ooh! Ooh! A tall woman! Did you see that?!?!

Two men walk by. One is wearing a hat. Does that mean something? The other one has a uniform and a patch on his arm. He might be a Trans Nazi officer. Or hotel security.

This is the most boring video in the world. Imagine that you are at a conference, watching people standing in the hallway conversing between sessions, and now and then one of them goes to the bathroom. That's what this is.

More shocking text:
Festivities that weekend included a pool party, a banquet, and a rock concert by a transgender band.

Let me note that sexual ambiguity has been central to rock music since Elvis and Little Richard.

Next we see still pictures from the banquet. This is about as dull as life gets. It appears that a Mass Resistance person may have paid to register for the conference and attend the banquet, so they could get these shocking photos of some people eating.

Then there is a screen of text:
I'm the biggest punk rocker there is. I tell all the kids in college -- "You got a tattoo, you got piercings ..."

Then you hear the sound, with a blurry video playing behind this text:
... I got a big set of tits! See if that pisses your parents off!"

This apparently is the person in the band saying these things. Weird to think that there would be an outrageous rock musician.

And OMG -- transgender people dancing! The band is playing a kind of heavy-metal version of "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones with a screaming lead guitar, well whatever. The video is edited, going from song to song, now they are doing a kind of frantic version of "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley, hey that is kind of cool, maybe my band can learn that one... And that's it. A couple of screens of credits. One screen says:
"Transgender Rights"
Bill H1728
in Massachusetts

and gives a URL for more information.

I don't know what to say here. These Mass Resistance people seem to live in a different world from me, that's my best way to understand it. They went to a conference for transgender people and saw transgender people there. The Mass Resistance people took video at this conference and literally said "These photos and videos illustrate the insanity that will descend on all of America . . . unless this sexual radical movement is stopped ..." Like if this nondiscrimination bill passes in Massachusetts, public places will be filled with transgender people, tall women and short men, women with deep voices and men with high ones, tall people going into the ladies room and short ones going into the men's room.

I hate to point out the obvious here, but the only way that can happen would be if there are millions of people out there who secretly feel they are living as the wrong sex, and would switch if only discrimination were outlawed. That's the only way this can make sense. Otherwise, where are all these "men in dresses" supposed to come from?

It seems to me that most people are comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth. I don't think that if the stigma against sex-changing was removed everyone would do it. A few more people might transition if there was no prejudice against it, if your family and friends and employer and people on the street would not turn against you, but most people would not want to. It is very clear to me that there will never be a world such as Mass Resistance envisions, where most people walking around have transitioned from one sex to the other. This was a conference specifically for transgender people.

People who support Mass Resistance seem to live in a different world from me. That's my best way to understand it. They live in a world where it is creepy and scary to make the hard decision to live true to your real nature, and not creepy and scary to sneak around making movies of people going in and out of the bathroom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Now Two of Them Want to Impeach Gansler

The Gazette had a story yesterday about other Republicans ... well, maybe one ... joining anti-gay Delegate Don Dwyer in calling for the impeachment of Maryland state Attorney General Doug Gansler, after Gansler issued an opinion that Maryland should recognize marriages, including same-sex marriages, from other states.
ANNAPOLIS — Del. Don Dwyer Jr. has some company in his quest to impeach Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler over an opinion he issued on same-sex marriage.

Del. Joseph C. Boteler III on Monday issued a news release calling on State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh to initiate charges of "willful neglect of duty" against Gansler (D).

Boteler (R-Dist. 8) of Carney sent a letter to Rohrbaugh on March 10 asking about the process for moving forward with impeachment charges in court.

In a March 8 letter in response to a question from Dwyer, Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe wrote "to have the Attorney General removed for willful neglect of duty, the State Prosecutor or the State's Attorney would need to bring charges in the appropriate jurisdiction."

Boteler said he would support Dwyer in his attempt to bring impeachment charges to the floor of the House of Delegates. GOP looks for new inroads on Gansler impeachment

Can they do that?

It seems not. Marc Korman at Maryland Politics Watch has the analysis:
Delegate Dwyer has expressed an interest in introducing articles of impeachment against the Attorney General. But even a cursory review of Article V of the Maryland Constitution reveals that the General Assembly cannot remove an Attorney General. Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution specifically says that the Attorney General is subject to removal “for incompetency, willful neglect of duty or misdemeanor in office, on conviction in a court of law.” The conviction in a court of law is the central element there, meaning the legislature is not the major actor.

Article III, Section 26 of the Constitution does reserve the sole power of impeachment to the House of Delegates and it is not clear to authorities if Attorneys General fall under the provision. The other statewide elected officials, the Governor and Comptroller, have specific impeachment and removal provisions about them in the Constitution that reference the General Assembly. The Attorney General does not.

Assuming that the Attorney General can be impeached under the General Assembly’s impeachment power, they cannot be removed by the legislature based on Article V. So perhaps Delegate Dwyer can impeach the Attorney General, but it would be meaningless as the sole power to remove him belongs to a court. The Attorney General and Impeachment

Back to The Gazette:
Each year, Dwyer introduces a bill calling for a statewide voter referendum on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Boteler said while he had heard from constituents about the opinion, "It's really not about the issue. It's about an oath of office that we all take."

The opinion could set a precedent for the Attorney General to rule on other matters, Boteler said.

"We need to be careful we don't go down a slippery slope where the Attorney General can make decisions on what is law, what is not law," he said.

Critics have said Gansler is circumventing the legislature and ignoring a 2007 ruling against same-sex marriage by the Court of Appeals and a 2004 opinion by his predecessor, J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D).

Gansler has said the opinion was not politically motivated, but was simply a response to Madaleno's request and he released the opinion when it was finished.

Yes, this is one of the things an Attorney General does, it's part of the job. There is an ambiguous law, the legislature can ask him what he thinks it means. He doesn't change the law, but his explanation can guide jurists in deciding cases.

A little more from The Gazette:
"The House Speaker has publically [sic] stated that he will rule the charge out of order citing the opinion that the Attorney General cannot be impeached as the authority for the out of order ruling," Dwyer wrote in a news release last week.

Dwyer said this week he expects House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis will call on House Parliamentarian Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Rockville to rule on the impeachment article Dwyer intends to bring.

In a letter on Monday to Del. Brian McHale (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore, the House chairman of the Legislative Ethics Committee, Dwyer asked that the Speaker "appoint a non member [sic] to preside as Parliamentarian."

"In order for the Parliamentarian to rule fairly and objectively on a question, a legitimate Parliamentarian is never a voting member of the organization or governing body," Dwyer wrote.

It sounds like the rules are pretty clear. It is notable that Boteler issued a news release rather than a motion in the legislature.

The Gazette might be blowing it a little out of proportion to say that "the GOP" is trying to impeach Gansler. The GOP of course would like any Democrat to lose their position or be embarrassed publicly, but so far it appears that two legislators have said something. This might gain them some prestige in their districts, it wouldn't be good for a politician from our county but it might work somewhere else. There is no chance Gansler will be removed from office for responding to a request from the legislature for an opinion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good Quote

Dave Rattigan at ExGay Watch has a good post up about PFOX's attempt to have "ex-gays" included in Disney's nondiscrimination policy. By the way, that attempt failed. Here is the crucial concept.
In the public square, the ex-gay message is rarely heard without accompanying slander of gays and their relationships. If indeed this is a sexual orientation, it is a tragedy – not to mention an anomaly – that it is an orientation defined overwhelmingly by hatred of and opposition to another sexual orientation. PFOX’s Disney Stunt Is About Protecting Ideology, Not Orientation

The Teabagger in the Judge's House

This just seems ... creepy. The LA Times:
As Virginia Thomas tells it in her soft-spoken, Midwestern cadence, the story of her involvement in the "tea party" movement is the tale of an average citizen in action.

"I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Neb., who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you," she said at a recent panel discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. Thomas went on to count herself among those energized into action by President Obama's "hard-left agenda."

But Thomas is no ordinary activist.

She is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she has launched a tea-party-linked group that could test the traditional notions of political impartiality for the court.

In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative "core principles," she said. Justice's wife launches 'tea party' group

There is something about the Supreme Court, those should be venerable, wise monoliths of intellect who weigh every piece of evidence against the ponderous dimensions of liberty and history. You hate to think they're married to nuts -- worse, you hate to think they are privately nutty themselves.
The move by Virginia Thomas, 52, into the front lines of politics stands in marked contrast to the rarefied culture of the nation's highest court, which normally prizes the appearance of nonpartisanship and a distance from the fisticuffs of the politics of the day.

That's the way I think of them, or used to. Now they're sitting there muttering under their breath while the President speaks, and dinner conversation at home is about the latest "facts" revealed on Fox.
Her biography notes that Thomas is a fan of Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, author of "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America."

"She is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully," the bio says.

Supreme Court justices are appointed for life.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

School Books to Promote Conservative Religious Perspective

We will not pass judgment on the state of Texas, it's a big place and has a lot of different kinds of people. But there are a lot of conservative folks down there, and they expect to get their way. Now they are re-writing school textbooks to fit their Conservapedia-like worldview.

The problem with that is that Texas is such a big state, such a big customer to the publishers, that books are written to meet Texas standards and then distributed all over the country. Here's the AP reporting.
AUSTIN, Texas - A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded yesterday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history, and economics lessons that, if approved in a final vote, will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.

Teachers in Texas would be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards would describe the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic," and students would be required to study the decline in value of the dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

Decisions by the board - made up of lawyers, a dentist, and a weekly newspaper publisher among others - can affect textbook content nationwide because Texas is one of publishers' biggest clients. Texas board would tilt textbooks to the right

Yeah, they're a little bit crazy down there, and normally that's fine for them. But our kids are going to be getting these same textbooks.
"We have been about conservatism vs. liberalism," said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. "We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it's appropriate."

After three days of impassioned debate, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards with a 10-5 party-line vote. A final vote is expected in May, after a public-comment period that could produce additional amendments and arguments.

Ultraconservatives wielded their power over hundreds of subjects, introducing and rejecting amendments on everything from the civil rights movement to global politics. Hostilities flared and prompted a walkout Thursday by one of the board's most prominent Democrats, Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi, who accused her colleagues of "whitewashing" curriculum standards.

I would like to see a list of the things they wanted to include. Since I just linked to Conservapedia, I went to that site and looked around. It really is pure nuttiness, they are re-defining the world in some kind of terms that have nothing to do with reality. And it's not a joke. People like that are getting publishers to re-write textbooks so that American children are indoctrinated into the fantasy-land of the ultraconservative religious right.
By late Thursday night, three other Democrats seemed to sense their futility and left, leaving Republicans to easily push through amendments heralding "American exceptionalism" and the U.S. free-enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best absent excessive government intervention.

Republican Terri Leo, a member of the powerful Christian-conservative voting bloc, called the standards "world class" and "exceptional."

Board members argued about the classification of historic periods (still B.C. and A.D., rather than B.C.E. and C.E.); whether students should be required to explain the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global politics (they will); and whether former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir should be required learning (she will).

"Some board members themselves acknowledged this morning that the process for revising curriculum standards in Texas is seriously broken, with politics and personal agendas dominating just about every decision," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for religious freedom.

And your kid's school is going to buy these books and your kid is going to learn this stuff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prom Canceled When Girl Invites Girl

In our Maryland county we have to deal with a small cell of hardcore haters who spew a lot of venom but are viewed in the community as oddballs and outsiders. It's probably good to remember sometimes that there are places where those people are the majority, and things really happen their way.

Like, say, Itawamba, Mississippi.
Jackson, Miss. (CBS/AP) When Constance McMillen fought the law, the law canceled the fight.

With the backing of the ACLU, McMillen fought an Itawamba County school board to be able to take her lesbian partner and wear a tuxedo to the Itawamba County Agricultural High School prom, in the small town of Itawamba, Miss. about 20 miles east of Tupelo.

The school board responded Wednesday by announcing they were canceling the entire prom, scheduled for April 2. Constance McMillen Wanted to Take Her Girlfriend to the Prom, So the School Board Canceled it

Now, that's fair! Cancel the prom for everybody so that two girls don't dance together.
A Feb. 5 memo to students laid out the criteria for bringing a date to the prom, and one requirement was that the person must be of the opposite sex. The ACLU told board members the restriction violated the students' rights and not allowing McMillen to wear a tux violated her expression rights.

McMillen almost didn't return to school Thursday for fear of retribution by her classmates who had just lost their prom because of her.

"My daddy told me that I needed to show them that I'm still proud of who I am," McMillen said. "The fact that this will help people later on, that's what's helping me to go on."

I imagine peer pressure can get pretty intense at Itawamba County Agricultural High School. It is great to see her dad backing her up, it is great to see young people fighting for what's right and not backing down.
McMillen said she did feel some hostility toward her on campus, explaining, "Somebody said, 'Thanks for ruining my senior year."'

I wonder how many people complained to the school board that actually canceled the prom, instead of blaming Constance for failing to homogenize adequately.

I notice the Facebook group Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom! has 18,169 fans so far. Woops, I waited an hour to post this. The group has 25,024 fans now.

[ Update, Saturday morning, 143,385 fans. ]

[ Update, Saturday 3:50 PM, 163,858 fans. ]

Husbands and Husbands

In case you haven't seen the great little video of this cute kid absorbing the fact that his two uncles are married to each other.

Kid seems to have the right idea, he takes it all in stride.

[Update: they have removed this video from YouTube. Too bad, it was working when I posted it. Let me know if you find a good copy somewhere...]

Monday, March 08, 2010

Heterosexualness In Danger

The Examiner had two stories recently that hit on topics near and dear to us here at TTF.

The first is nearest and dearest, because it features a character we got to know at the 2005 CRC Hate Fest. I'm talking about Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer, whose rhetoric was so over-the-top that the CRC leadership had to issue a statement distancing themselves from him. Here's his money quote from that event:
I’ve been accused of spreading hate and fear among the churches throughout the State of Maryland. Guilty as charged. I am spreading hate and fear. I am spreading the hate of the homosexual activist and I’m spreading my fear of what’s going to happen to this great state and our great nation if people of this world do not take a stand.

Our old friend Don is very upset that the state Attorney General has issued an opinion that tends to undermine the spreading of hate and fear.

The Examiner let him write a column on the subject...
Just six years after then-Maryland Attorney General Joe Curran issued his official opinion on the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriage, the state’s current top legal officer, Doug Gansler, has overturned it.

In doing so, Gansler not only bypassed the long standing practice of referring to standing opinions from previous attorney generals, he also usurped the power of the Maryland General Assembly. The immediate effect of this opinion is far-reaching. It nullifies Maryland’s current law that states “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state.” Del. Don Dwyer: Maryland's attorney general should be impeached

He goes on... I'm skipping through.
Irrefutable evidence exists proving Gansler violated his oath of office by offering partial and prejudiced testimony in his official capacity. He is not constitutionally authorized to offer partial and prejudice testimony under the cloak of his elected office.

He has unabashedly supported not only the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, but now also overtly advocates for Maryland to start performing them. In his testimony in the Maryland Senate in 2008, he fully outlined what he thinks is his job as attorney general:

“The role of the Attorney General is not just to enforce the law, but to seek justice in every case.” He went on to say “It would be hard for me to have this job knowing that there is something so wrong in our society and just ignore it and be able to come down and at least testify on behalf of this bill.”

Gansler’s action on the same-sex marriage issue is in direct conflict with the intent of the Oath of Office to which he swore his allegiance. It is also a grave injustice to the citizens of Maryland.

The column concludes:
I am preparing articles of impeachment based on the offenses outlined here. One can only hope that this process will not be circumvented for political expediency.

Dwyer's statements here are one hundred percent predictable. He is making a name for himself as a spreader of hate and fear of the homosexual agenda, and this is just the kind of thing he always says.

Let me say, The Examiner is a doubly doubtable source of information. For one thing, the newspaper itself is not very good. I remember when they reported on some action by our Montgomery County, Maryland, school superintendent, and showed a picture of the superintendent and school board from Montgomery County, Virginia. The paper is rabidly and often humorously conservative, biasing news stories in surprising and innovative ways. The second factor is that they have blogs online that are apparently unmonitored and unregulated, and when you read on their Internet site it is not always clear what is a news story and what is a blog or opinion piece. While some of The Examiner's blogged stories are very interesting, you can't trust the quality of anything you read on their site.

So here is The Examiner telling us about a bill that has been introduced to ban same-sex marriages.
ANNAPOLIS - Maryland lawmakers used racism and religion to argue over whether to allow same-sex marriage in the state in a House hearing Thursday.

"Heterosexualness is in danger," said Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., D-Baltimore County. "I never thought I would live to see this day."

Burns held up a copy of Thursday's Washington Post and pointed to a picture of two men kissing.

Del. Benjamin S. Barnes, D-Anne Arundel, sponsor of a bill that would legalize gay marriage in Maryland, asked Burns: "Does it make you angry to see two men kissing?"

"It's disgusting," Burns replied.

Several gay couples in the packed hearing room gasped; others shook their heads.

Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr., R-Anne Arundel, meanwhile, nodded his head. Lawmakers battle over gay marriage

Quick, call the authorities! Don't let them take my heterosexualness away from me!

Apparently these guys think that most straight people are strongly tempted to become involved romantically with someone of their own sex, and only refrain from doing that because there are laws saying that people with matching plumbing cannot marry. That is the only way that marriage between same-sex couples could threaten, never mind endanger, heterosexualness. Which is, by the way, a word I am coming to love.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Another Headline

Fox News: Anti-Gay Lawmaker Reportedly at Gay Club Before DUI Arrest
A California state senator who reportedly has voted against every gay rights measure since he took office eight years ago was charged with driving under the influence on Wednesday, reportedly after leaving a gay nightclub in Sacramento...

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Front Page Headline

The Washington Post -- you just can't get any more balanced that this.

Here's what you got on our front porch this morning. Front page headline today, below the fold:
Democrats' ethical lapses could imperil hold on power

Online they changed it for their more sophisticated Internet readers: Massa resigns; Democrats' ethical lapses could threaten hold on power

Yeah, those Democrats are so unethical... I'm so glad I pay to get this newspaper delivered to my house. It is so informative.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Post: Democrats Share the Blame for GOP Bad Behavior

I've mentioned a few times here about how the Washington Post has been getting worse and worse. Perfect example this morning.

This week a slide show produced by the Republican Party got out to the public. Politico broke the story Wednesday:
The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to "save the country from trending toward socialism."

The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”

The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.

In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party’s donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.

The presentation explains the Republican fundraising in simple terms.

"What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate...?" it asks.

The answer: "Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”

Manipulating donors with crude caricatures and playing on their fears is hardly unique to Republicans or to the RNC – Democrats raised millions off George W. Bush in similar terms – but rarely is it practiced in such cartoonish terms.

One page, headed “The Evil Empire,” pictures Obama as the Joker from Batman, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid are depicted as Cruella DeVille and Scooby Doo, respectively. Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'

(BTW, you can see the slide show itself HERE.)

Oh, and here's the funny part.
The 72-page document was provided to POLITICO by a Democrat, who said a hard copy had been left in the hotel hosting the $2,500-a-head retreat, the Gasparilla Inn & Club. Sources at the event said the presentation was delivered by Bickhart and by the RNC Finance Chairman, Peter Terpeluk, a former ambassador to Luxembourg under President George W. Bush.

Ambassador to Luxembourg -- I love that. So the Republicans just left this thing lying around and Politico ended up with it.

Maybe you saw Howard Dean on Keith Olbermann's show last night, with Lawrence O'Donnell hosting. Dean's usually pretty good with the talking points, he puts his message out there where he wants it, but last night he was just stammering. His message was, "I can't believe this."
And it‘s astonishing to me—what is so astonishing is not that they are propagandists. They‘ve been doing that since Lee Atwater. What‘s astonishing to me is that they‘d turn the fire hose on their own people. They just don‘t respect anybody who disagrees with them and they really believe that they are entitled to run the country just because of their far-right views. And it‘s just—I‘m shocked. I really am. That would never happen at the DNC.

You know, you can‘t even ask me what would you do if that happened at the DNC. It never would, because we fundamentally respect other people. In fact, when I was chairman, we actually even reached out to respect evangelical Christians because we thought we could get some of their votes and we did.

I‘m stunned. I just can‘t believe that this party is so open about how contemptuous it is for the very people they work for ultimately which is the American people.VIDEO

OK, you may or may not like Howard Dean and you know he's a good Democrat speaking on behalf of the party, but the truth is -- this Powerpoint talk was presented by high-ranking Republican officials, it represents their philosophy of campaigning, and, importantly, there is nothing like this to be found in any Democratic rally or backroom meeting.

So here's what gets me. This morning you have the Washington Post talking about how the Republicans are trying to control the damage from this thing. Here's how their story starts. I want to direct your attention to the first sentence of the second paragraph of this article.
National Republican leaders scrambled Thursday to control damage caused by an internal party document that caricatures President Obama as the Joker and stokes fear of socialism to raise money in a critical election year.

The 72-page PowerPoint presentation reveals the blunt appeal to emotion that both parties use to motivate donors and prefer to keep private. But its release online and consequent cable chatter became an unwelcome distraction for Republicans, because the strategy it outlined fit squarely with Democrats' portrait of the GOP as the party of "no." Republicans try to control damage from fundraising document

Excuse me -- both parties use?


We await the release of the corresponding documentation of the Democrats' appeals to fear and their mockery of their own donors.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Melting

Got up this morning and went outside to pick up the paper, and it is unmistakable -- spring is near. It's only going to be in the forties today but you can smell it, you can feel it, you can hear it.

I don't think it ever got very cold this winter but how many times did it snow? It seemed like there was snow on the ground the whole time, sometimes several feet of it. Everybody's had enough. Now lawns have turned to mud and sidewalks are clear, there are still mountains of black snow where the plows piled it up but those are diminishing, too. A sparrow was sitting on the bird house this morning, planning how to design a nice nice for its family, a crow flew overhead with a twig in its beak, headed no doubt for some noisy rookery nearby.

It is so fun this week to see the pictures and read the stories about the couples who lined up for the first day of marriage licenses in the District of Columbia. Watch THIS VIDEO and look at those happy faces! People are so emotional they almost can't talk. Amanda Hess at The Sexist blog interviewed couples in line and has some of their stories. It really is fun to read.

We send special cheers to Terrance from Republic of T blog, who is an occasional participant in TTF community affairs and was twelfth in line with his partner Richard.

These are happy days for residents of our area. Gay and lesbian couples can marry legally in DC, and their marriages will be recognized in our state of Maryland.

And so the snow melts all around us and hateful attitudes melt away in the sunshine of love.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Marriage Licenses in DC Tomorrow -- Supreme Court Will Not Intervene

Late breaking news story.
Chief Justice John Roberts has just released an opinion refusing to block D.C.'s same-sex marriage law from taking effect tomorrow. Opponents of the law had asked the Supreme Court to step in and issue a temporary delay so they could hold a city-wide referendum on the issue before the law took effect.

Lower courts had ruled against them, and Roberts said he saw no reason for the Supreme Court to step into such a local matter involving the referendum process.

As a result, gay couples can start applying for marriage licenses in D.C. tomorrow. Opponents still can pursue a ballot initiative to overturn the same-sex marriage law.

Roberts' decision can be read here. Supreme Court Refuses to Block D.C. Gay Marriage

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Post: Why Blue Maryland Lags

You would think Maryland would lead the nation in progressive issues, for instance ensuring rights for minorities, but that is rarely the case. The Washington Post had a thoughtful article this morning discussing this apparent anomaly in light of state Attorney General Doug Gansler's recent opinion (read it HERE) that Maryland law does recognize marriages -- even same-sex marriages -- that have been granted in other states.

It doesn't seem like a big deal, say some people are married in a state where the age of consent is younger than ours, what are we supposed to do, make the husband sleep on the couch until they both meet the Maryland standard? Same thing, a couple gets married in a more progressive state, one of them gets a job transfer to Maryland, what are we supposed to do, un-marry them because they're both men or both women? Somebody has to decide, and Gansler made what appears to be a fair and kind of obvious decision.

But Gansler has gone against Maryland tradition, even Maryland Democratic Party tradition.
On paper, the declaration last week by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) that the state would begin recognizing same-sex marriages from other places might have seemed right in line with a state ranked as having the nation's largest percentage of left-leaning voters.

In reality, it violated the way Maryland politics works.

Even though Democrats hold a 2 to 1 advantage among voters and dominate both houses of the General Assembly, lawmakers in Annapolis are a more conservative lot than their counterparts in other deep-blue states. Powerful Democrats in the legislature hold onto their jobs for decades by moving slowly, not setting trends.

The state's brand of liberalism is explained in part by geography and in part by culture. Democrats are hesitant to embrace many progressive social policies, lest they upset the state's many Catholics, evangelicals and others with deep religious convictions.

And although parts of Montgomery County are every bit as left-leaning as Boulder, Colo., and Berkeley, Calif., African Americans in Baltimore and Prince George's County -- the state's other Democratic strongholds -- tend to be more socially conservative. Rural Democrats, particularly in the southern and western parts of the state, identify more culturally with Virginia than with Takoma Park. Same-sex marriage opinion was politics unusual in Maryland

It is sometimes easy to forget, and helpful to recall, that the Mason-Dixon line is north of us.

And here The Post is referring to Takoma Park as if it were an enclave of old hippies. Which is, well, pretty accurate. Mellow place, Takoma.

Skipping slots and corporate taxes ...
"We are more comfortable, seemingly, waiting for other states to tiptoe into territory that is trendsetting to see what the reaction is before we step up and do the same thing," said Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat and one of the state's few openly gay lawmakers.

"We are a Democratic state, but in the big-tent sense, we have a lot of conservative Democrats, and we do things in a very measured sense."

Against such inertia, Gansler's decision to press ahead on gay rights not only got ahead of the curve but jumped the cautious political track on which Maryland lawmakers remain most comfortable.

Gansler used a request from Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., another openly gay Montgomery Democrat, to reverse an opinion and direct state agencies to begin offering same-sex married couples the same rights afforded heterosexual ones.

Gansler insisted that his decision was not playing politics and was right, given that the state has respected less-scrupulous contracts than out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses. Gansler's critics, however, insist that he intended to circumvent the legislature.

That's a kind of weak criticism, it's the Attorney General's job to specify how laws should be prosecuted. This is definitely ambiguous and needed interpretation (thanks Rich!), and once asked, you knew he was going to go one way or the other with it.

Gansler's gambit:
The decision sets up a likely showdown in the state's highest court, and Gansler said he thinks his opinion has provided a successful road map for same-sex couples to win such cases.

If voters become more comfortable with same-sex marriage over the next four years, the move could prove a shrewd one for an attorney general already positioning himself to run for governor in 2014. If not, he could be cast as too liberal even in his party's own primary.

Too liberal for the monkey-monks in charge of the party, maybe, I doubt this would make him appear too liberal for the people who live in this state.

Here's the part that has been bothering me for a long time.
The other Democrats who hold statewide office and who are likely to seek the nomination haven't supported same-sex marriage.

I think if you sat down and had a beer with any of these so-called Democrats you would find that they are perfectly comfortable with the concept, but don't feel that their constituents are ready for it.

To which I would say one thing: lead. Don't drag along behind the curve, get ahead of it, affect history, set an example for your constituents. Don't let the Family Blah Blah groups run the rhetoric into the sewer, seize the opportunity and make a name for yourself by doing the right thing proactively.
More immediately: In an election year with the seats of not only O'Malley but all 188 state legislators up for grabs, Gansler's decision exerts new pressure on Democrats with tenuous holds on the state's more conservative districts. The state's Republican Party has made clear that a primary focus in November will be to pick off five seats to break the Senate's filibuster-proof majority. At least some of those Democrats are likely to face committee votes on same-sex bills in coming weeks.

"We have a long history of pragmatic politics," said Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., a powerful Democrat who represents Southern Maryland and who often votes against bills introduced by his more-liberal colleagues. "You've got the rural areas that offset some of the more progressive areas, and because of that . . . there are some issues that you'd think we'd be a lot further ahead on than we are, which I think is appropriate."

Bohanan then described an exchange that often typifies some of the tension within the state's Democratic majority: "Somebody said in [the] Appropriations [Committee] the other day that, 'Well, you know California has passed this bill already,' and I said, 'Some of us believe that if they've done it, then we run in the opposite direction.'"

Because what -- you don't want to be like California?
A recent Gallup poll found that 57.7 percent of Maryland voters are Democratic or left-leaning, the highest percentage in the country aside from the District.

The party's power is centered in the middle of the state, in Baltimore and the heavily populated Washington suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Democrats win in rural areas, too, but often by toeing conservative lines on immigration and crime issues.

Religion also plays a moderate role. A strong arc of Catholic voters resides throughout Howard and Anne Arundel counties, boosting the legislature's ranks of Catholics to 53, or almost a third of lawmakers. Catholics are only outnumbered by the half of Maryland lawmakers who identify themselves as Protestant.

"Maryland's electorate, and therefore its lawmakers, are different than in other blue states," said Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a pastor and Baltimore County Democrat who authored a House bill that failed last month to ban recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Although Burns's bill failed, a similar measure against recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages remains active in the Senate.


That bill has 10 co-sponsors: five Republicans and five Democrats. Three -- including Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. (D-Baltimore County), the lead sponsor -- represent fairly conservative districts. The other two -- Sens. Anthony C. Muse (D) and Douglas J.J. Peters (D) -- hail from Prince George's.

The Democratic co-sponsors underscore the diversity of views within the party in the all-important Senate. Liberal legislation can pass the House but often dies there. Democrats dominate the chamber, holding 33 of 47 seats, but there is little consensus on social issues.

In recent years, conservative Democrats have sided with Republicans on several other divisive issues, including stem-cell research.

Maryland was one of the first states to approve funding for stem-cell research, but it remains one of the last sticking points each year in the budget.

Stem cell research seems to me to be a sound-bite issue. There is no rational argument against the use of stem cells, which have amazing potential for curing intractable diseases. There is a vague and easily overstated religious objection, which is that cells may come from aborted embryos. And that's it.
Maryland was one of the first states to approve funding for stem-cell research, but it remains one of the last sticking points each year in the budget.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he wasn't sure how much debate Stone's measure would get, saying he considered the House as having already dealt with it. Miller said bills to pass same-sex marriage also haven't gone anywhere in the Senate because "it would be very difficult to get past a filibuster."

Still, Miller, who on many occasions has tried to curtail debate on social issues since he began presiding over the Senate in 1987, said his members' views on the latest hot-button social issue, same-sex marriage, are just one slice of being a Maryland Democrat.

"We're not going to tolerate a litmus test for people who belong to the Democratic Party," he said.

Excuse me, but it appears that he is saying "being a Democrat means nothing."

Finally, the article makes it personal.
Jennifer Kali, 31, recently gave birth to a daughter and plans to travel with her partner, Karen, from their Silver Spring home to get married in the District next week. Maryland already gives same-sex couples many rights, "but this could be huge," Kali said, referring to Maryland potentially recognizing her marriage.

"The fact that we're even talking about it," Kali said, "is a big deal."

And the fact that we're only talking about it is a big deal, too.