Saturday, January 20, 2007

If Only He Said Those Two Key Words

Letter published in Washington Blade--1/26/07: "O'Malley's inaugural speech disappoints Maryland gays"

When I saw the clip on the evening news that reported Governor O’Malley’s inaugural speech earlier that afternoon, my heart raced. I heard the new governor of Maryland say, "I take responsibility as one leader for never trying to divide our people by race, class, religion or region." I waited to hear the two words that would have made that statement complete. But, alas, Governor O'Malley shifted abruptly to a different theme of taking responsibility for setting a tone of mutual respect.

Drats! Those two words were never spoken; the speech was not whole. An opportunity lost. I felt unfulfilled.

For when he uttered the phrase "never trying to divide the people," my first impulse was recalling how President Bush, in dutifully complying with the win-at-all cost tactics of Karl Rove, did just that. They divided the people during the 2004 presidential campaign by driving a wedge among America's voters and a stake through the gay community's collective hearts on the matter of "gay marriage."

"Gay marriage is morally wrong." "We need to protect the sanctity of marriage." "Marriage should be defined only as a union between a man and a woman." It divided the nation.
So when Martin O'Malley laid out how he had no intention to divide the people, my fervent hope was that he was going to include those two key words among the others. And those would be "sexual orientation."

What a wonderful message that would have made! If nothing else, it would have sent a clear signal to such homophobic Maryland legislators as Del. Don Dwyer, Del. Emmet Burns, Sen. Janet Greenip, Sen. Alex X. Mooney, Sen. Nancy Jacobs and others: any attempt to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage would certainly not receive any moral backing from this governor, unlike his predecessor, former Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., who lent his support to such an egregious notion.

What would have been wrong by including "sexual orientation" in the text of that otherwise commendable promise? The state now has laws on the books prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. This isn't new; those battles seem to be behind us. They survived theconservative Mr. Ehrlich who, some believed, would have sought to overturn the protections, given his shoddy record on LGBT issues.

But Governor O'Malley did not utter those words. It was either an oversight or political calculation; we may never know. It would have been momentous if he had, but given the recent political environment when it comes to gays regardless of Party, it is not surprising. Just disappointing.

No comments: