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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hillary and Bosnia

Why did the media and Obama for that matter allow Hillary Clinton to lie about taking sniper fire in Bosnia? It wasn't a "misstatement" as she alleges. She told that yarn at least 3 times under her own power. If you get shot at, you're going to remember it. There is no such thing as "almost shot at" or "I think I was fired upon."

Let's get real: she lied, plain and simple. And if the press is going to buy into her excuse that she was "sleep deprived" when she spun this outrageous tale, then why aren't they asking her, "how can you say you are best able to take that dreaded phone call at 3:00 a.m."?

Monday, March 24, 2008

In Annapolis March Madness Doesn't Mean Basketball

By Steve Charing

When it became apparent that Senator C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince Georges) was not going to break the stalemate and vote the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and onto the Senate floor, he quickly became the scapegoat. Marriage equality advocate Lisa Polyak told the Washington Blade, "I think it’s reprehensible that one person gets to determine whether an entire class of people gets their civil rights."

Carrie Evans policy director of Equality Maryland chimed in. "Until we crack the nut of Sen. Muse, marriage is not happening in the Judicial Proceedings Committee."

They should have seen it coming. It seemed like it was a foregone conclusion the bill would die in committee. Despite Equality Maryland’s extraordinary efforts to bring a diverse group of passionate advocates to testify at the hearing, the mood of many activists was pessimistic because of Muse’s public stance on marriage equality.

Sen. Muse, a senior pastor of Ark of Safety Christian Church in Upper Marlboro, opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples but is also concerned about denying civil rights to others. That concern, however, has not translated into any pro-LGBTactions on his part.

One would think Sen. Muse would have been a target for Equality Maryland following his doublecross last year. At that time he failed to vote for the bill in the same committee that would have extended legal protections based on gender identity and expression. Muse had promised the organization he would vote for the measure. There was no significant opposition to the bill in the Senate, and his vote would help clear the bill for passage.

Equality Maryland’s executive director Dan Furmansky told me then, "Senator Muse changed his vote. We had his vote. Clearly there were mysterious outside forces that made Senator Muse backtrack at the last minute."

One mysterious outside force could be none other than Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert). Sen. Miller (pictured) opposes same-sex marriage and even civil unions, and in his twilight years in the chamber, he has no stomach for an open debate on the touchy issue.

How does a powerful politico like Miller kill bills he does not want to see advance to the floor but doesn’t want the obstructionist label placed on him? He stacks committees with members who will stonewall such legislation. Sen. Muse, a Democrat, appears to be the perfect prop in that show. Who can deride Muse’s falling back on his faith for opposing LGBT progress? We can.

Equality Maryland should lead the lgbt community in two initiatives that would provide retribution to these roadblocks. First, recruit and back a candidate to the left of Muse and have him or her run against him in 2010. Muse’s 26th district includes the Ft. Washington-Camp Springs area.

This approach worked quite well when Congressman Albert Wynne was defeated in February’s Democratic primary by a more progressive candidate, Donna Edwards. Equality Maryland, with its enhanced stature, staff and resources, should be more than able to pull this off using its PAC component. It would demonstrate real muscle on the part of the organization as well as the lgbt community. Screw us at your peril.

And if you are like me and believe Mike Miller is also the villain here, there is a wonderful way to let him know how the lgbt community feels about his tactics: help defeat his beloved slots referendum. My calling for the defeat of slots in Maryland is tantamount to a robin swearing off worms, but exercising our clout in a public way transcends my penchant for the machines.

Another example of the madness in Annapolis is homophobe Janet Greenip (R-Anne Arundel). She is in the same flock as Republicans Don Dwyer, Alex Mooney and Nancy Jacobs—unapologetic bigoted extremists who oppose anything that would help the LGBT community.

When the Senate approved, over Greenip’s objections, the bill that would allow domestic partners—gay and straight—to obtain hospital visitation rights and make medical decisions for one another, Sen. Greenip was at it again.

She was concerned that undue rights would be granted to those in "highly unstable relationships." I hope she doesn’t believe that heterosexual marriages are stable given its 50 percent failure rate.

She added that if the state is going to encourage anything, it should be marriage, not cohabitation. I agree. That’s why the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was crafted.

"This is not about you. This is not about me," she said before the vote. "This is about the children. What kind of future are we leaving for our children?"

I’ve been following this issue closely for years, but I have never been able to find someone who can convince me that marriage equality will be harmful to children. But Greenip constantly uses "children" as a fear tactic, and gets away with it.

The idiot Mooney also suggests that homosexuals and people "shacking up" will be rewarded by this chipping away at marriage, bill by bill. Well, give us marriage, and we won’t shack up.

Let’s be blunt. We are never going to achieve marriage equality by relying on a single organization to do the heavy lifting. We must make sure all our voices are heard loud and clear. Let’s all get involved.

I do urge Equality Maryland, however, to start making some waves. It isn’t enough to simply mark a legislator’s box, "anti-LGBT" and move on. Sometimes finding and funding alternative candidates when necessary or threatening to help kill pet projects of opponents could do the trick. Don’t you think it’s time?

This March Madness convinced me it is.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lessons in Leadership

Letter published in March 24, 2008 issue of TIME

The cover story ably examined the many ways experience can be manifested [March 10]. Senator Hillary Clinton prides herself on her experience and claims that she would "be ready from Day One" to be our next President. However, her campaign's failure to adequately plan strategically and financially for post--Super Tuesday proves she is incapable of being ready on Day Two. On the other hand, Senator Barack Obama, despite his alleged inexperience, has surrounded himself with extraordinary talent and had a string of primary victories. The way these two candidates have managed their respective campaigns speaks volumes about required experience.

Steve Charing

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Dems Need to Unify and Soon

A split party could allow McCain to sneak in.

By Steve Charing

Pity Republican presidential nominee John McCain! The country is just finishing off eight years of a GOP-controlled White House, which has produced the most unpopular president in modern times. And to add insult to injury, poor John McCain recently received George W. Bush’s endorsement and a threat by Bush to campaign with him. Ouch!

The Bush-Cheney Administration, to which McCain will be inexorably linked during the national election, has been beset by scandal, greed, secrecy, torture, unaccountability, threats to the Constitution, incompetence, record debt, and has squandered trillions of dollars and thousands of lives over a war that had no legitimate basis. With all that baggage, McCain must defend his unflinching support of this broadly despised war. In fact, he sees us in Iraq for up to 100 years.

The nation’s economy is moving towards recession. Joblessness and inflation are on the rise. So are foreclosures in the housing sector. The stock market and consumer confidence are in a free-fall. And gas prices are soaring on a limitless trajectory. Historically, the party that controls the White House is blamed for economic downturns, Sen. McCain.

McCain, himself, is clueless about the economy and just like his fellow GOPers, he offers tax cuts as the panacea. He’s a one-trick pony that mentions "Islamist extremism" and "al-Qaeda" in every speech, no matter the subject.

Add to the mix that the Democrats are energized and oh so eager to replace President Bush with one from their own party. Democratic turnout in the primaries, even in so-called red states, doubled the Republican forces. The Dems have registered far more new voters that would ostensibly lead to a lopsided victory come November. And a large chunk of the GOP does not trust McCain and lacks enthusiasm for his candidacy because of his stands on immigration, campaign finance and taxes.

Moreover, the white-haired, pasty skinned septuagenarian will also face the daunting challenge to convince the voters he didn’t just rise from a crypt, which, in fact, he did politically. With the deck stacked against him like this, why is McCain even bothering to run?

Because he can win!

Since he has been officially designated as the Republican’s standard bearer, McCain can go about planning for a national election as Senators Clinton and Obama continue to duke it out. McCain can make nice with the social conservative bigots in the party, select a vice-president that is "acceptable" to the GOP’s crucial factions, and mobilize the "opposition research" folks for the inevitable "fear and smear" campaign that characterizes Republican election cycles.

Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton appear to be on course for a stalemate with the Denver convention in late August looming as the Waterloo in a hard-fought contest. Neither appears willing to surrender although Obama is leading in pledged delegates and is likely to hold that advantage through the remaining primaries. Yet neither candidate will muster the sufficient number of delegates that puts him or her over the top.

Speculation abounds concerning the contentious disposition of the "super" delegates, the handling of the invalid contests in Michigan and Florida, and how the party’s bigwigs will ultimately resolve the impasse prior to the Rocky Mountain extravaganza.

While this process unfolds, expect Clinton and Obama to battle each other. Clinton saw first hand in Texas and Ohio that going negative is beneficial. Obama, on the other hand, had eschewed the negative approach up to the point of those contests. Pressure is mounting for him to throw some punches lest he will be perceived as too soft and unready to take on McCain and Company.

Although this pugilism may liven up the spring and summer with tasty commercials and sound bites, the exchanges will provide fodder for an already desperate Republican Party willing and able to use the ammunition against the eventual Democratic nominee. The deleterious blows that each Democratic candidate inflicts upon each other, and the money expended during these battles damages them and opens up McCain’s narrow door for an improbable victory.

If you are a member of the LGBTcommunity or an ally, that is not a good thing. McCain, if he should prevail, will likely serve one term. That means his right-wing vice president is set up for a potential eight additional years on top of Bush’s eight and McCain’s four.

McCain opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment, not because he’s a proponent of marriage equality, but because he considers such a step as a misuse of the Constitution. He doggedly resists repeal of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. In short, McCain is no friend of the LGBT community.

For their part, neither Obama nor Clinton favors same-sex marriage. But each has gone on record supporting civil partnership recognition that would include Federal benefits. Both Democrats would seek to abolish "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and at least portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (Obama would repeal it all).

Clinton and Obama issued compelling statements following gay teenager Lawrence King’s murder. Both support hate crimes legislation and a federal measure that would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace. Much to his credit, Obama has publicly called on ministers in African-American churches to denounce homophobia—a politically risky move.

You won’t hear McCain speak out against homophobia or lead any efforts to achieve equality. He will be too obligated to the religious right to do so, even if he were inclined. McCain would have the potential, however, to appoint two to three justices to the Supreme Court, and you know which side of the political spectrum they would represent.

For the Democrats to stop McCain, the party must come together and coalesce behind a candidate. They must do this quickly before any of the bruises become lethal. And they should remind the voters of the information contained in the first four paragraphs of this column. That would seal the deal.