Vol. 9, No. 28
July 12-18, 2001
Current Issue
Summer Day Camp ~ It’s Not Just for Kids!
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
In Season
Not Just for Kids
Eight Days a Week
What's Playing Where
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us

Ballot Boxing: Challenging Freedom in the Free State

On their TakeBackMaryland.org web site, organizers of the drive to repeal Maryland’s 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 Maryland’s 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 didn’t pay much attention to the new law, which doesn’t go into effect until October 1. It simply extends Maryland’s 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 Mother’s 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 aren’t 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.

We’re 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.

There’ll 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.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly