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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Memo to Dems: Don't Impeach

It’s tempting and legitimate, but impeachment could hurt the Party

By Steve Charing

As momentum continues to gather towards a possible impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney and/or President Bush, those aligned with the Democratic Party need to step back and examine the wisdom of such a move.

There is no question that both Cheney and Bush have committed impeachable offenses; i.e. "high crimes and misdemeanors," which along with treason, constitutes the benchmark, however flexible, for grounds for impeachment. Notwithstanding the trampling of the Constitution and the environment by these individuals, either or both should be held accountable for the lies that pushed us into a needless, costly war and made the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism.

More and more of the country are fed up with the Bush administration as his approval rating stands at an all-time low and the lowest since the good-old days of Nixon. And Cheney’s approval numbers probably don’t register; they’re that low.

The incompetence and arrogance of Bush-Cheney have been evident to the point that this is now what we expect of them. The considerable amount of antipathy towards Bush-Cheney stems mainly from their lies about Iraq and an impressive list of other failures. Even once-loyal Conservatives have begun to head for the lifeboats because of the administration’s mismanagement of the war, uncontrollable spending and their position on immigration.

The lgbt community has their own gripes with this team. It starts with the cynical wedge issue of gay marriage during the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign under the direction of puppet master Karl Rove. They sought to peel off votes that would otherwise have been cast by socially conservative and religious Democrats. Many believed that the tactic worked in such battleground states as Ohio where a constitutional amendment that would ban "gay marriage" was strategically placed on the ballot.

Gays should also be ticked off by the Bush Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito who now join homophobes Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. They are one vote away from killing any progress towards equality or worse, rolling back some gains. Along those lines, Bush managed to nominate an anti-gay physician—Dr. James Holsinger—to be the Surgeon General, and he loaded up the Justice Department with a disproportionate number of attorneys who were products of the Christian law school, Regent University. It was founded by none other than homophobe Pat Robertson.

But it is clearly the disastrous war in Iraq and the lies that brought us there that turned the public away from Bush and Cheney. The cost in dollars is immense, and the cost of lives and ruined lives is immeasurable without one solitary thing being accomplished that would directly benefit our country. In fact, this dumb war caused us to diminish our pursuit of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden—the true perpetrators in 9/11. That made us more exposed, and the war helped to recruit more terrorists.

Moreover, our standing in the world receded to such a low level that it is virtually impossible to secure international cooperation on the war on terror. Add that to the Administration’s unwillingness to engage in substantive diplomatic dialogue causes us to be more isolated than ever. This is not a good position to be given the globalization that surrounds us.

So why not impeach?

The results of the 2006 elections were a clear sign that the country was embarking on a political realignment away from the warlike, religiously-driven dogma of the current administration. The war in Iraq and the numerous scandalous activities by government officials led the voters to scream for CHANGE.

The Republicans are going down in flames; there is no question about it. They are quickly losing the support of moderates and independents as well as displeased evangelical voters. You can thank Bush and Cheney for that.

The 2008 elections, barring any unforeseen change in circumstances, should easily add to the Democrats’ majorities in the House and Senate (where more Republicans than Democrats must defend seats), and the White House is surely within grasp—even if Hillary is the nominee.

Impeachment would be politically risky and conviction unachievable. In our history, only a handful of judges were ever convicted through the impeachment process.

The argument that impeachment during a time of war is irresponsible and perhaps unpatriotic is nonsense, of course. That is because we wouldn’t be in a time of war had it not been for the apparent impeachable actions on the part of the President and Vice President. However, that type of accusation—that it is irresponsible—has a chance to resonate with many voters.

When President Clinton was impeached (not convicted), his approval ratings, although much higher than Bush’s now, did not decline. Rather, he garnered a lot of public sympathy for a man who had been an effective president that yielded budget surpluses and kept us out of a protracted war. The impeachment process was widely seen as a highly politicized effort to derail his presidency that centered on a private matter that was not affecting the welfare or security of the state.

The last thing Democrats need is to mitigate Bush’s free-fall into oblivion by making him a sympathetic figure. Equally significant, by not impeaching Bush or Cheney, the Dems won’t have to fall into the "unpatriotic" trap that the GOP knows how to spring with such skill and efficiency. "They are impeaching the Commander-in-Chief during a war, thereby weakening our nation. That is unpatriotic if not treasonous."

Impeachment proceedings would be a dragged out process that will likely turn off the electorate at a time the Democrats need the voters to be energized to rid the country from these deceptive and incompetent jerks and their GOP following.

Democrats, let Bush and Cheney take down the GOP on their own. They are doing an effective job of it. Don’t make the public feel sorry for them or give an excuse to pummel the Dems as unpatriotic.

Don’t impeach; the rascals will be out of office soon enough.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Seaside Reflections

By Steve Charing

PROVINCETOWN, MA—Upon making my 20th visit to this fabulous gay resort, I can reflect upon how Provincetown (P-Town) has changed since my first brief stay during the summer of 1975. What was then a gay playground-by-the-sea for primarily New Yorkers, New Englanders and Canadians, has evolved into a global Mecca, and it isn’t unusual to see as many people vacationing here from San Diego as Amsterdam.

To be sure, much remains the same over these three-plus decades. The ice cream cones and pizza continue to be tasty. The Lobster Pot restaurant is always filled to capacity. The Boatslip tea dance remains a standing and modeling show by the water’s edge. The ocean is bone crunching cold. The cabarets and street theater are as outrageous and campy as they have ever been.

But there have been noticeable differences, too. With the expanded popularity there are, of course, the soaring prices of cramped guesthouse rooms, pricey dinner menus, increased cover charges at the bars and skyrocketing property values.

More straight families partake in the Cape Cod ambience of P-Town now, as acceptance of gays and lesbians is broadening. Earlier on, they were a rare presence.

There isn’t as much tawdry "action" at either the dunes or the notorious cruising at the "meat rack" because the emergence of HIV/AIDS and heightened police awareness kind of put the brakes on that.

But the most dramatic change in P-Town from a sociological and political standpoint is the fact that many of the gay and lesbian couples strolling down Commercial Street, if they are residents of Massachusetts, are actually married. And other same-sex couples from the state flock here to join in on the nuptials. That phenomenon would have been too surreal to even be imaginable back in 1975.

Since 2004, when gay marriage became legal in the Bay State as a result of a court edict, over 8,500 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses. While some states have allowed for civil unions—a compromise of sorts between pro-marriage equality forces and anti-gay marriage types—Massachusetts remains the only state in the nation that allows for same-sex marriage. Civil unions afford a few statewide benefits, but they are separate and unequal to marriage. And same-sex couples in these arrangements are relegated to a status beneath heterosexual couples.

With their Governor’s support, the Massachusetts legislature recently rejected an effort to put the marriage issue on the ballot in 2008 that could have resulted in an amendment to the constitution banning same-sex marriage. Therefore, the marriages that take place in Provincetown or elsewhere in the state will continue at least until 2012.

As gay and lesbian Marylanders await the ruling from the Maryland Court of Appeals as to the legality of same-sex marriage based on a high-profile lawsuit, it is important to note that civil marriage brings in well over a thousand rights, benefits and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, most of the significant benefits that would be afforded couples as a result of marriage are within the federal domain. In 1996 President Clinton signed a bill advanced by a hoard of gutless Congressmen and Senators called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Facing re-election, Clinton was backed into the corner and had to go along with this seemingly unconstitutional law lest he be portrayed as anti-family.

One of the provisions of DOMA allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that are carried out in other states. The other key provision defines marriage as a legal union between one man and woman as husband and wife. As such, the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage be it from Massachusetts or anywhere else. The consequence of that is that there can be no benefits stemming from Social Security, survivor and inheritance laws, federal retirement pensions, tax advantages and a host of other federal benefits.

Those gays and lesbians who are married and are enjoying their bike rides in P-Town and sampling the famous taffy are not reaping the awards that the heterosexual couples take for granted. The only similarity is that they can say they are married. But the federal restrictions on same-sex couples deny them the federal protections, which would be far more beneficial and meaningful financially.

The solution—and it’s a very steep hill to climb—is to repeal DOMA or have it successfully challenged in what is now an anti-gay Supreme Court.

More and more people are coming to the realization that marriage as an institution is not threatened by gays as much as it is from straight people. Massachusetts, after allowing same-sex marriage, maintains the lowest divorce rate in the country. The sky did not fall beginning in May 2004 when the first same-sex marriages took place. On the other hand, nearly half of all heterosexual marriages in the U.S. fail.

A shocking thirty-seven percent of all babies in 2005 were born out of wedlock. If couples having children that bypasses the commitment of marriage doesn’t threaten the institution, I don’t know what would.

This is the message that we must convey to get on the path to repeal DOMA. We must also maintain that we are seeking civil recognition with all the potential benefits, not a religious blessing. It’s all about equality and justice.

The younger, more tolerant and open-minded generation will lead the way. Perhaps some day, when all gay and lesbian married couples from Massachusetts, Maryland and beyond visit enchanting P-Town, they will be sharing a meal at Bubala’s or Bayside Betsy’s as completely married in the eyes of the U.S. government and in receipt of the full benefits and recognition they deserve.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gay Jeopardy at PFLAG

June Horner with arms raised is jubilant upon learning that she was the winner of "Gay Jeopardy" presented by the Columbia/Howard County PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) on July 10 at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. Everyone in the audience were contestants, and the three highest scores participated in "Final Jeopardy" to compete for fabulous prizes. June is a proud parent of a gay son as is co-finalist Dan McCarthy, Crystal Ogar was the recent recipient of the chapter's first scholarship. Your favorite blogger (far right) hosted the game.

Photo Credit: Bob Ford

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Reading the Signs

Letter Published on TIME.com--
July 3, 2007


Amanda Ripley was correct that constant exaggerations concerning terrorist threats will make us less safe [June 18]. She points out the dangers of using terrorism for political gain. The color-coded terrorism warnings during the 2004 presidential campaign were a cynical example of that bombast. The drumbeat from pro-Iraq-war elements aims to reassure us that we're fighting terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them within our borders. The episode at Fort Dix in New Jersey, no matter how dumb the plotters were, is proof positive that terrorism can occur on our shores even if we're in Iraq. The war has accomplished nothing except to recruit more terrorists.


Friday, July 06, 2007

In Defense of Pride

By Steve Charing

It’s painful for me to admit I’m old, but with one exception I have attended every single Baltimore Pride parade/festival since 1978 when it first took place along Waverly’s 31st Street. Later on, I was part of the then Baltimore Gay Paper’s delegation when it joined a handful of other marchers down Park Avenue in 1984 that ultimately became Baltimore’s first ever Pride parade in front of yes, only a handful of people.

Many of those attending this year’s Pride were not even born then. And I am sure they (as well as some others) don’t even know the roots of the Pride celebrations. But I’ve basically seen them all.

Over the years, the location, leadership, scope and size of the annual Pride galas evolved and with mixed results. Baltimore Pride has been run by the GLCCB throughout its history and emerged as a primary revenue source for the Center.

It wasn’t until three years ago, however, when Scott Baum and Ron Crognale took the helm in planning and executing Pride that it reached, in my view, a new level of success. It developed into a celebratory series of high-energy events that brought a diverse community out—a dramatic change from the early years.

This year, the behemoth task was taken over by Joel Rosado, who, I am sure would credit the efforts of Baum and Crognale and their legion of volunteers for establishing such a good foundation.

And on Rosado’s first attempt, I thought Pride went well again this time. There were flaws, to be sure, as there would be in any large undertaking. For example, Pride "Security" volunteers allowed groups of people to inconsiderately camp out on beach chairs on Eager Street’s sidewalks prior to and during the block party that made a congested thoroughfare even more challenging to negotiate. And I am certain other folks had their list of "issues" concerning the two-day event as well.

But I would like to address some of the comments published in a Letter to the Editor in the last issue of OUTloud by Joseph Kortash. He criticized Pride 2007 on all levels, basically characterizing it as "same old, same old."

I hope he can correct me if I am wrong, but I doubt that Mr. Kortash participated in any of the planning meetings that other Pride volunteers attended where he could have expressed his views and, perhaps, effect the change in vendors and entertainment he craves. To be honest, I doubt he volunteered at all for Pride.

Furthermore, I question whether Mr. Kortash appreciates the extraordinary amount of time and effort needed to carry out the myriad logistical details that are essential in producing a huge event, such as obtaining permits, vendors, entertainment, technicians, contracts, police coverage, sanitation, etc. If he did, it wasn’t acknowledged in his letter.

As for the parade, Mr. Kortash found it embarrassing to bring his straight friends because of the antics and attire of some of the marchers. It is true that footage from gay pride parades that focused on the so-called extreme behavior have been co-opted by gay rights opponents, especially religious conservatives, in an effort to suppress our progress towards equality. They use these images primarily to shock "middle America" and instill fear.

I agree that some of it is in bad taste and not conducive to a parade that has increasingly attracted children. Nonetheless, since the first gay pride march in New York in 1970, it has been a tradition to allow free expression from such a diverse community.

I think the "shock value" is waning because people have seen this before and coming to realize it is a minority of the community, not representative of it. The debate, however, will continue; Mr. Kortash does have a valid argument.

Mr. Kortash doesn’t like being "hounded" at the festival. Who does? But such worthwhile groups like Equality Maryland (he cited it specifically in the letter) and the Human Rights Campaign are working hard to secure rights and protections for Mr. Kortash and other lgbt people. If those in our community were not so politically uninvolved, there would be no need to "hound" anyone.

The festival affords an excellent opportunity for organizations to present a message and garner support to allow them to help all of us. This occurs at all Pride celebrations, and it should.

One final point about the GLCCB and Mr. Kortash’s quoting his chat room buddies who labeled the GLCCB "a mess." The debate about the Center’s efficacy has been ongoing since its inception, so there is nothing new here. For one, I have disagreed with the Center’s leadership and board over the years on some of their decision-making, personnel and the weaknesses in the Center’s financial management/transparency.

Yet ever since Harvey Schwartz moved the Center from a small, below street-level apartment on Maryland Avenue in 1980 to the current building on Chase Street, there was never a question in my mind as to the legitimacy of the organization’s purpose and mission.

Pride is a vital source of income for the GLCCB to help carry out its needed programs and services. Although I had no major complaints, questions by others have surfaced as to whether or not the GLCCB is the best entity to run Pride. The location, entertainment and vendors have been challenged, and not just by Mr. Kortash.

Perhaps an answer would be to hold an independent community meeting later this summer or early fall to hear the grievances about Pride, and more importantly, develop solutions. I think Mr. Kortash would be an excellent person to organize such a meeting.