Ballot Boxing: Challenging Freedom in the Free State
On their TakeBackMaryland.org web site, organizers of the drive to repeal Marylands new civil rights law request donations to help keep Maryland free.
They say: The Free State must not be taken captive by Homosexual Lobbies and special interest groups.
In those passages lies a fundamental contradiction in the campaign to undo a new Maryland law: The crusaders observe rightly Marylands proud motto. But they would suppress freedom in Maryland by endorsing practices that discriminate against people and deprive them of liberties.
Marylanders will be pondering these questions now that a sufficient number of signatures has been gathered to place the repeal of the anti-gay rights law on the 2002 election ballot - if those signatures prove valid.
Most people didnt pay much attention to the new law, which doesnt go into effect until October 1. It simply extends Marylands anti-discrimination protections in employment and housing to gays and lesbians. It was passed with the ardent support of Gov. Parris Glendening - whose brother died of AIDS 13 years ago - after exempting organizations like the Boy Scouts and small businesses.
Nonetheless, organizers have whipped up a fear campaign warning that Maryland is on a slippery slope to co-ed public bathrooms, the abolition of Mothers Day and even protections for child molesters.
What a waste of energy - and a waste fraught with deception. The chief organizer, a Severna Park man named John Tres Kerns, says he is driven by having been molested as a youth by a camp counselor. In telling that story, he equates homosexuality with pedophilia, an invidious comparison.
An array of churches has become involved. (We noted in news coverage that the petitions were especially popular at Muslim mosques in Baltimore, where progressive race relations arent always the order of the day.)
We may be old-fashioned but we like to think of our churches as incubators of togetherness and good will, not exclusion and mistrust.
Intolerance is not a pretty sight in any form, especially when government is involved. Just this week, we learned in headlines that the Bush administration is working with the Salvation Army to make it easier for government-funded religious groups to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Were heartened that Marylanders appear to understand intolerance. A poll taken by the Baltimore Sun recently found that 60 percent want to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. In other words, the majority of people understand the elements of remaining free in the Free State.
Therell be scare in the air over the next 16 months. But we remain optimistic that in the end, the good sense of Marylanders will triumph.