Friday, August 27, 2010

Luke Clippinger and Mary Washington for House of Delegates

The City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland and the LGBT community would be best served if candidates Luke Clippinger and Mary Washington are elected to the House of Delegates. As progressive Democrats in Baltimore City, winning the primary on September 14 would almost certainly mean election in November.

Luke Clippinger, an assistant state's attorney in Anne Arundel County, is seeking to represent the 46th District in the House of Delegates. The district encompasses such neighborhoods as Canton, Little Italy, Ridgeley's Delight, Brooklyn, Curtis Bay, Highlandtown, Butchers Hill, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Patterson Park, Otterbein and Locust Point.

Mary Washington, an Associate Director at an urban environmental education organization, is making her 2nd attempt for Delegate in the 43rd District. Included in that district are Charles Village, Waverly, Guilford, Morgan Heights, Lauraville, Montebello and Govans.

Both candidates are attractive, personable, engaging, competent and hard working. They have demonstrated to this newspaper their integrity as well as their willingness to roll up their sleeves to meet their constituents at every turn to explain their positions on safety, education, jobs and the environment.

The added bonus, of course, is that both Luke Clippinger and Mary Washington happen to be gay. Drawing from their personal experiences, they would bring to Annapolis first-hand knowledge and understanding of lgbt issues. Both are competing in districts that boast a significant LGBT population, so these constituents would be well represented.

Adding two LGBT legislators to join the ranks of Sen. Rich Madaleno, Del. Anne Kaiser, Del. Heather Mizeur and Del. Maggie McIntosh would bode well for lgbt citizens throughout the state. (Two more members of the lgbt community—Dr. Dana Beyer and Bonnie Cullison—are challenging Delegate seats in Montgomery County.)

The friendships, trust, and working relationships both Clippinger and Washington would generate among their colleagues would enable legislators to see gay individuals on a personal level, which could perhaps move them to be allies and support our initiatives. There remains much work to do in Annapolis with the two highest LGBT legislative priorities being marriage equality and transgender protections. Luke Clippinger and Mary Washington can only help give these initiatives a boost.

Both candidates have received endorsements from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Equality Maryland and the Stonewall Democrats of Central Maryland as well as other groups and organizations. They can now count Baltimore OUTloud as among those who strongly urge the citizens of Districts 46 and 43 to vote for Luke Clippinger and Mary Washington, respectively, on September 14.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lazy Days of Summer Were Anything But

In 1963 the immortal Nat King Cole sang of "Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer." You know, the days of "soda and pretzels and beer." It was a simpler, more idyllic time then. We were in the midst of Camelot. Life was so different then; it is unimaginable. No cell phones, much less smart phones, iPods, Internet, or cable TV were around. The Cold War was still cold although a little skirmish in Southeast Asia was beginning to fester. Stonewall was still 6 years away.

We assume the summer months, the dog days of summer —when school is out, people take their annual vacations, the heat suffocates—are a time when things just decelerate or come to a stop. Yet, the 99 or so days between Memorial Day and Labor Day always seem to be the fastest moving portion of any year's calendar.

As we head to the Labor Day weekend, we can reflect back to the summer of 2010 and characterize how blazing it really has been. Sure, the heat was record-breaking. Everything slows down to a crawl. Dogs are chasing cats while both are walking.

From the BP Oil Spill to the carnage on the streets of Baltimore, this summer has had enough events to fill a highlight—or lowlight—reel. Tempers have been flaring. We witnessed the mosque at Ground Zero controversy, Conservatives begrudging the First Family's taking a vacation, jobs still hemorrhaging, American Idol judges fleeing. And that's before the hotly-contested political season really starts to boil.

For the LGBT community, the summer started off in usual fashion. We experienced a fun-filled Pride weekend that overcame the oppressive heat and humidity. Most folks seemed to be in a good mood as the lgbt community came together for this annual event. Successful Pride celebrations also took place in D.C., Harrisburg, PA and Edgewater, MD throughout the summer.

The dog days took over on cue. As temperatures soared, many flocked to the beach—Rehomo Beach as some call it. Hopefully, they had been enjoying the latest edition of Baltimore OUTloud while sipping a brew or eye-balling those lotioned-up bodies lying under the rainbow umbrellas at Poodle Beach. House parties, dinner parties, block parties, white parties—summer is our time.

Our local lgbt candidates for elected office have braved the heat, humidity and thunderstorms to knock on doors, meet and greet potential voters in a quest to serve their districts. Certainly the lazy days of summer don't apply to them.

But it still seemed like a typical summer around here.

Then the controversy over Target and Best Buy's donations to a group representing Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer hit the fan. The group Emmer is associating with is not only anti-gay but very anti-gay.

“When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers … used to think about Target and Best Buy, we saw two shining examples of corporations that respected the equality and dignity of every American,” the Human Rights Campaign stated in an open letter to the companies. “Now, Americans are questioning their loyalty to your brands with word of significant contributions to the political action committee MN Forward that hopes to install one of the most strident opponents of equality in the Minnesota Governor’s mansion,” HRC added.

They as well as other organizations such as called for a boycott. Imagine lgbt people boycotting Target (also dubbed Tar-Gay) and Best Buy? That's akin to children boycotting ice cream. This is the summer of 2010 so the unexpected can be expected.

Then a ray of sunlight broke through the hazy skies of summer when federal judge Vaughn Walker struck down the nefarious Proposition 8 as unconstitutional in California. Although same-sex marriages in the Golden State are on hold at least until December thanks to a stay issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the decision was monumental.

Another piece of good news about the lower court's ruling is that it exposed the incredibly weak secular arguments against marriage equality put forth by opponents. Two pathetic witnesses argued for Prop. 8. On the other hand, we had Theodore Olson and David Boies—polar opposites on the political spectrum—presenting an iron-clad case for marriage equality. The decision was a slam dunk.

Failing to muster any kind of legitimate substantive counter-attack concerning the ruling, religious conservative groups reverted to a comfortable place for them: the lowest level. They simply attacked Judge Walker not only for the decision itself but the fact he is gay. By being gay, they concluded he is biased by wanting Prop. 8 nullified. He would not be impartial and should have recused himself from the case.

What they chose not to acknowledge, however, is that a straight judge may also be biased, and therefore, would be prone to uphold the referendum. Ah, those pesky little points! Hopefully, the same compelling arguments against the constitutionality of depriving same-sex couples the right to marry will be eloquently presented to the Supreme Court, which seems inevitable.

As kids begin to buy school supplies or older ones pack up for college, we know that summertime will be transforming rather quickly into fall. While the thermometers may record lower readings, we expect the temperature to rise dramatically during the climax of the 2010 election campaigns—nationally and locally.

Summer of 2010 will soon be in our rear view mirror, but it certainly was not equated with the lazy days of summer of years past nostalgically depicted in song.

Monday, August 09, 2010

An Open Letter to Governor Martin O'Malley

Move Maryland forward and support marriage equality.

Dear Governor O'Malley,

The historic ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that struck down Proposition 8 on constitutional grounds sent a seismic reaction that has spread to Maryland. Aside from the extreme fringes who bemoan the decision because Judge Vaughn is gay and, therefore, biased (a red herring if there ever was one), the decision had been met quite favorably by media, pundits and most importantly, folks across the U.S.A.

The point is, Governor, same-sex civil marriage is inevitable in the Free State, and it would behoove you to be on the right side of history. To heighten the chances for re-election, you should declare your support for marriage equality during this campaign, and I will explain why.

You are embroiled in, what many believe to be, a very tight election battle. Your re-election is no cinch, to say the least. You are facing mounting voter discontent for a variety of reasons, placing incumbents like yourself in a perilous position. Moreover, this is an off-year election, which, as you know, historically brings lower voter participation. There is no exciting candidate like Barack Obama to drive turnout. Because of this, voter enthusiasm, monetary support, and, yes, turnout, particularly among your base supporters, are crucial.

A significant part of your base is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. But please keep in mind that what impacts the LGBT community also radiates to others: family members, co-workers, friends and neighbors as well as like-minded allies who believe in equality for gays and lesbians. The numbers among these groups are far greater than what you may ordinarily assume if taking into account only the lgbt population.

In this off-year election with its likely reduced voter turnout, enthusiasm within this group will be needed to help achieve your goal. Right now, the LGBT community is not enthusiastic about you primarily for your stance on same-sex marriage.

While it is true that our community is not enamored with the record of your opponent Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. concerning LGBT equality, that shouldn't be a signal that the community would automatically vote for you. As I mentioned previously, enthusiasm is key. That translates into donating and raising funds, working on the ground, and voting. Without that passion, your struggle for re-election magnifies. They may not vote for Ehrlich; they may simply stay home.

Deep down, I know you favor equality and non-discrimination for all Marylanders including the lgbt community. You have demonstrated that as Mayor of Baltimore, which was greatly appreciated. Our community supported you in droves in 2006 and is looking for a reason to do so again in 2010. But simply being the anti-Ehrlich will not suffice.

I realize the political calculus is different in a statewide election, but please consider these points:

1. Democrats in Maryland outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. Get the Democratic voters to the polls and you win.

2. Those voters who oppose marriage equality generally would not vote for you anyway. Governor, you'd be best served by concentrating on your base of support and the persuadable center of the political spectrum and not waste time and resources trying to change the minds of the right wing.

3. Your continued support for civil unions satisfies nobody. The folks who oppose marriage equality will not vote for you even if you advocate for civil unions. And progressive supporters are turned off by a separate but equal solution to the issue.

4. Attorney General, Douglas Gansler, in issuing his legal opinion that recognized the valid marriages of same-sex couples conducted in other jurisdictions, has been a forthright and a strong backer of marriage equality. The consequence of his unambiguous support: no one is opposing him for his re-election.

5. A Washington Post poll conducted in May indicated for the first time that more registered voters in the state favor same-sex marriage than oppose.

The default position of being cautious during this particular election campaign has an immense downside, but a courageous stand on marriage equality has a huge upside. You can easily announce that after reading Judge Walker's 193-page opinion that as Governor you do not see a state's interest in discriminating against gays and lesbians here. You want all citizens of Maryland protected under the law, specifically, the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And I am certain you wouldn't want a family member to be treated as a second class citizen any more than you would want to see the rest of the state's population victimized by discrimination.

Governor, you demonstrated a tremendous amount of zeal in your quest to repeal the death penalty. I ask that you show a similar degree of passion in standing up for same-sex marriage. State emphatically that you have seen the light; that the ruling in California provided you with a new perspective. Let Mr. Ehrlich try to fight you on the issue of fairness and equality versus discrimination. Let him keep his extreme conservative votes. That's a battle you should welcome in a state with a huge Democratic margin and a populace trending towards marriage equality.

It is the right thing to do, and with the expected rising enthusiasm among your base as a result, it will likely help you get re-elected.