Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What We Should Expect in 2008




By Steve Charing

Happy New Year! Last issue I offered a reality check and discussed what not to expect in 2008 in the political arena and elsewhere. Now I’d like to focus on what the lgbt community could anticipate this coming year at both the local and national levels.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE WILL DRAW EARLY FIRE IN ANNAPOLIS. With the budget mess largely addressed at the recent special session of Maryland’s General Assembly, other matters—some as contentious—will get aired when the new session opens January 9.

The first salvo is expected to take place the day after the opening bell. According to Lisa Rein of the Annapolis Notebook, a House-Senate committee will hold a hearing on a proposed regulation defining domestic partnerships in state law. This debate is being conducted because of language in a health insurance law whereby insurance companies are required to offer benefits to domestic partners if their employers ask for it. The term "Domestic partnership" was not defined.

During this hearing, the nefarious anti-gay forces will crawl from under their sleazy rocks to denounce any semblance of same-sex partnership recognition. They will predict the destruction of the institution of marriage, ignoring its existing 50 percent failure rate.

We will hear that attack over and over from Delegate Don Dwyer and his legion of homophobes. And they will try, unsuccessfully I predict, to get a constitutional amendment on the books to ban same-sex marriage.

Nonetheless, expect to see during the session the introduction of the pro-equality Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act that would allow same-sex couples to be legally married in Maryland. Unfortunately, 2008 will not be the year this bill will be passed. There are far too many hurdles.

As part of their make-up, all Republican legislators will oppose it automatically. That’s a given. Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, a Democrat, has repeatedly stated his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions. That alone will kill any chances of passage this year. There are also other weak-kneed Democrats who will not support same-sex marriage and will use the abhorrent Court of Appeals 4-3 ruling in September as cover. A compromise, however, is a distinct possibility.

In time we will win full marriage rights. It’s an education and lobbying effort, and that must be pushed relentlessly. One Republican legislator, who requested not to be identified, told a group of us that in his heart he is with us, but he cannot buck his Party.

As long as the Republican playbook contains anti-gay positions, they will always attempt to thwart our progress. We must educate the public on the fairness issue and make it so that opposing our rights is bad politics. We must step up the message in 2008.

As part of Equality Maryland’s legislative agenda, there will be another attempt this year to end discrimination based on gender identity and expression. As you may recall, that effort failed last year despite broad support. Thank the Senate leadership for that.

Other less heralded, but still significant lgbt issues will be considered at the General Assembly, and I anticipate there will be some positive results. Check Equality Maryland’s website to learn how you can help and to participate in Lobby Day on February 11.

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS AND GAY MARRIAGE—PART II. After the 2004 anti-gay marriage attacks by the Republicans, I think the electorate has recognized that the more pressing issues deserve the thoughtful attention of the candidates and should be the focus. The instability of Pakistan and other Middle East unrest, Iraq, national security, illegal immigration, healthcare and to some extent, the worsening economy should be enough for the candidates to chew on.

Nonetheless, look for gay marriage to surface during the 2008 presidential campaign, but definitely not as much as in 2004. Like I said, though, anti-gay positions are always part of the GOP playbook, so don’t be surprised if gay marriage rears its head at some point.

This is especially true if the California Supreme Court rules in the spring or summer in favor of same-sex marriage. Remember those dreaded "activist judges"?

No matter who the Democrats ultimately nominate, that person will be opposed to same-sex marriage, thus stifling any charges by the Republican nominee. But a Democrat will support partnership recognition in other forms. There will also be fewer states placing constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage on the ballot than in 2004.

The GOP (historically winning) formula of "fear and smear" will still be out there despite the absence of Karl Rove. They will truly attempt to demonize the Democratic nominee and sling the mud for the smear part of the equation. Then there will the "fear factor" that entails illegal immigrants, Islamo-Fascism (whatever that is), higher taxes, and of course, the trusty destruction of the family (code for anti-gay). That leads me to…

MIGHT THERE BE ANOTHER LARRY CRAIG MOMENT IN 2008? Following the likes of Mark Foley, Ted Haggarty and the "I’m not gay, never was gay" toe-tapping Larry Craig, don’t be surprised to see another closeted, homophobic Republican to be caught with his pants down or fingers on the mouse.

There are quite a few closeted Republicans who have gone on record opposing gay rights who draw whispers and outright charges from bloggers and others that they are actually gay. Don’t be shocked if another one’s behavior outs himself or gets outed during this amazing year that has only just begun.

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