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Ehrlich and Gay Rights


Gov. Bob Ehrlich's swift decision yesterday to dismiss an appointee who refused to apologize for calling homosexuals "sexual deviants" earned him praise from the openly gay board member who demanded the apology. And it no doubt burnished the moderate credentials the governor will need to appeal to swing voters this election year.

But what are the governor's politics when it comes to the gay rights agenda?

Ehrlich said in a statement yesterday that the comments his Metro board appointee Robert Smith made on a cable television show "were highly inappropriate, insensitive, and unacceptable. They are in direct conflict to my Administration's commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance, and opportunity."

Still his administration's record on the issue remains a bit difficult to peg.

This winter, for instance, Ehrlich sided with conservative lawmakers who wanted a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage added to the November ballot.

At the same time, he was backing a bill that provided limited medical decision making powers to unmarried couples, including gay partners.

Last year, Ehrlich deliberated with aides for weeks before deciding to veto a broader domestic partnership bill that would have afforded gay couples some of the rights of married people.

A few days later he signed a bill that added sexual orientation to the state's hate crime law.

Smith's comments on political roundtable on a Montgomery cable station went unnoticed until D.C. Council member and Metro board member Jim Graham raised them at yesterday's board meeting. He asked for an apology but Smith declined and merely reiterated his views.

Graham noted that Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan, who directs the actions of Maryland's representatives on the Metro board, has a brother, Edward, who served as the openly gay auditor of the state of Vermont.

"I wonder if Secretary Transportation Flanagan believes his brother to be a sexual deviant," Graham said. "I do not believe myself to be a sexual deviant."

After Smith was removed from the board, Graham complimented Ehrlich. "The governor appreciated the seriousness of this problem," he said.

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, a Democrat running for governor, sent out a statement decrying Smith's remarks as "mean spirited" and praised Graham for raising the matter. No word on Ehrlich's response.

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 16, 2006; 6:58 AM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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The Governor's position on gay citizens isn't a big mystery. He's willing to treat them as poorly as he can get away with. But he knows he's in MD, not Alabama, and that his constituents will only put up with so much. The fact that he willingly vetoed a bill granting basic rights to gay people speaks volumes. And it makes the whole anti-marriage stance he takes hypocritical. Since he's willing to veto bills granting limited rights 'similar' to some of the rights enjoyed by married couples, it's clear that his anti-marriage stance is a sham. He simply doesn't think gay people are equal citizens, period.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Good entry. To Ehrlich's credit, he has mostly avoided the divisive and manipulative "protecting marriage" rhetoric.

This is partly a shrewd political move, as I see it, since religious conservatives have little influence in Maryland. Most Republican leaders seem to recognize that pandering to those conservatives will alienate mainstream voters from both parties.

One exception is Delegate Tony O'Donnell,
one of the chief advocates of the marriage amendment. I was disappointed to see O'Donnell, who is not part of the religious right, parrot Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum and their bogus claim that same-sex marriage poses some diabolical threat to straight marriage. The claim has no basis in fact, and is merely an attempt to manipulate voters through fear.

With Duncan and O'Malley both favoring civil unions, gubernatorial candidates in Maryland are sensibly steering a middle course. Personally, I believe government has no compelling interest in banning gay marriage, but I see the civil union idea as an acceptable compromise. Ehrlich needs to define his position on civil unions, and I hope he endorses them as a matter of principle.

Posted by: John | June 16, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I keep hearing that civil unions are a "compromise" to equal marriage rights for gays. That is akin to saying that "separate but equal" schools were a "compromise" for African Americans.

I am gay, and have no particular interest in ever being legally married. Aside from the tax hits we would incur, I wrote off the concept of such a ceremony many years ago, and it just doesn't appeal to me to make a big deal about something involving my sexual orientation.

I do, however, have a problem with being considered a second class citizen with "separate but equal" rights. Furthermore, so long as our society advertises that gays are "separate but equal," children will grow up understanding that if they are gay they are inherently second-class citizens--just as black people were, and in many cases still are, taught that they are second-class citizens.

I understand that the analogy with "separate but equal" schools is not completely accurate. The black schools, drinking fountains, bathrooms, etc. were physically not equal to those permitted for white use. The psychological meaning to "separate but equal" marriage, however, is as equally damaging and damning to peoples' perceptions of gay people as is "separate but equal" schools were to peoples' perceptions of black people.

I hope that good and fair-minded people who think the gay community ought to compromise their lives will take this into consideration in the future.

I'm sure there are many black people out there who will be offended by my comparison. I'm sorry that you are so stuck in your own self-righteousness that you either don't perceive, or don't care about the hypocrisy of saying you deserve equal rights but someone else doesn't. Keep in mind there are black gay people out there who experience discrimination on multiple fronts.

Posted by: Tim | June 16, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Re: Tim...You're right about the noxious "separate but equal" status that civil unions would entail. I don't like the compromise either.

So why do I support the compromise? Because the religious right has an agenda that goes far beyond banning same-sex marriage. They use gay-baiting to promote fear among voters. If this is successful, voters might become so scared that they would endorse a homophobic version of Jim Crow, where gays would lose the legal rights they already have. That fear would also give the religious right the power to enact the rest of its agenda, such as using creationism and mandatory prayer to push Christian doctrine on public-school students.

There are many voters who are uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage, but support the idea of civil unions. As I see it, gay rights advocates must win the hearts and minds of these voters and persuade them from listening to the fearmongers. The civil union compromise is probably the best way to do that under the current political climate.

Posted by: John | June 16, 2006 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Ehrlich made a mistake in firing a man for exercising his freedom of speech. It is quite scary that someone's opinions and his right to speak his mind can be used to fire him. Those who choose the homosexual lifestyle always "preach" tolerance but when one points out they are deviant then the double standard is used.

The homosexual community also needs to stop hiding behind the race card. The analogy to racial segregation is completely off base. If you choose a dangerous deviant lifestyle you separate yourself from certain benefits of society.

Posted by: Rob | June 16, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I understand and agree with what you say, John, including the fact that the more outspoken advocates of both gay and other rights ultimately harm their own causes under our country's current mentality (i.e. Nader supporters in 2000). I understand that a "compromise" is what is needed at this time if the long-term battles to obtain broader equality for all individuals--plus the environment--are to be successful.

I also know, though, that I'm pretty priviledged in many ways, despite being gay. For many people, the fight for their civil rights is much more crucial to their lives, and although I realize they are ultimately harming broader causes, I can't blame them for never wanting to compromise.

Posted by: Tim | June 16, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Rob I hope that neither you nor Robert Smith are God-fearing Christians. Jesus taught love and tolerance, and when you pass on from this world you will find that neither he nor Saint Peter look favorably on those who spend their lives promoting intolerance and hatred.

Posted by: Sue | June 16, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Rob, careful now, honesty is often not permitted on this board. Be prepared to be shouted down.

Some unarguable facts:

1) Homosexuality defines a behavior, not skin color. We discriminate based on behaviors all the time. (Felons can't vote, etc). Before you uberlefties start yelling that I'm comparing gays to felons, please pause and get a grip, life, etc. - I'm not. I'm only saying, you'll stop embarrassing yourself once you stop comparing gay marriage to interracial marriage. If you can't see the differences, then stop reading here, your mind is way too closed for further discussion to be of any use.

2) Calling homosexual behavior sexually deviant is not the same as calling it a perversion - it simply states the obvious point that our biology is wired so that 'coupling' is between man and woman, normally. And I define sexual normalcy as what 95% of the population is, and what homosexuals are not. This doesn't make it wrong per se, it only makes it rare, or deviating from the norm (hence deviant).

3) Erlich can fire who he wants, when he wants. In his position, he had no choice but to head this off before it becomes a campaign issue. Robert Smith gives up certain free speech rights when he accepted his position (or, more accurately, the position is contingent upon his public muzzling of positions antithetical to the Erlich administration).

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

In response to: "If you choose a dangerous deviant lifestyle you separate yourself from certain benefits of society."

My comment?

I do NOT choose a "dangerous deviant lifestyle." I am a gay man in a very longterm, mutually monogamous, loving, caring relationship. It is a healthy and stable relationship--the kind that heterosexual couples strive for.

It is a marriage to those in my congregation, to our families, friends and colleagues. My life is completely interwoven with that of my partner in terms of finances (including our mortgage), and caring for one another in terms of health and everything else. Stability and health benefit all-- including society at large.

It's time for the law to catch up with the reality of the lives of numerous gay couples who are doing exactly what society asks of responsible couples.

It is hypocrisy AND it is unfairness to distinguish rights and responsibilities based on what's between people's legs rather than how they live their lives.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Firing Smith isn't a matter of stifling free speech. It's a matter of not wanting a bigoted individual officially representing the State of Maryland in any capacity. Having said that, Ehrlich's decision to fire Smith was nothing but a transparent move to make himself more palatable to Maryland voters. He lacks any principle whatsoever.

Posted by: Chuck | June 16, 2006 12:13 PM | Report abuse

In response to: "Some unarguable facts:
1) Homosexuality defines a behavior, not skin color. We discriminate based on behaviors all the time."

Actually, this is very "arguable".

I've known I was gay since around age 10, probably before.

I was celibate --a "virgin"-- for the next 20+ years.

As a gay person, I have choices to make in life. I could (as I did for decades) pretend to be something I was not. Ask the girl that I went to my high school prom with if that's the "right" thing to do. Or the young woman whom I later dated and who wanted to marry me. Want me to marry your sister in order to carry out the pretense?

I could become a monk (well, a Jewish one ;-)). We don't ask that of most heterosexuals. I fail to see why anyone would ask that of me.

Or I could live my life responsibly, with honesty and integrity, in the same kind of committed, loving, caring relationship that draws accolades when heterosexuals do it. That's what I have chosen to do. And my partner and I live a good, honest and healthy life that benefits all --including society at large.

It's time for society to stop hiding behind such bromides as "homosexuality is a behavior so we get to mistreat homosexuals".

No. In a fair and just and inclusive society, you REALLY don't.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I wish to make a few points in response to some of the comments left so far:

To Rob: Mr. Smith is entitled to believe what he was brought up to believe. And if he wishes to do so on a street where anyone can hear him, as a private citizen, he may. But he espoused his views as a appointed public official. And that is why he was challenged and later fired. Also, if two men or two women are in a singular, monogamous relationship, that "lifestyle" is unacceptable? You seem to conflate single acts with living. Gay people do not fall into a singular "lifestyle" anymore than chess players do, even if playing chess is not mentioned as a sin in the Bible.

To those who feel that civil unions is "separate but equal" for gay people, and those who want to draw parallels to the civil rights movement, ponder this: the time between Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is fifty-eight years. Even now, we are still working on correcting the hundreds of years of inequality. Social change either comes very slowly or very quickly. Unless gay people and their supporters are willing to use (unacceptable) violent measures to achieve their aims, then the key to change is gradual understanding that gay people are people, and can form stable families.

The issue, however remains this, and let's NOT forget it: Robert Smith used his public office to state personal beliefs that the administration finds officially untenable (regardless of the same administration's policies). That is why he was fired.

Posted by: Al Erock | June 16, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Re: JD

I'm a straight man and I don't know whether homosexuality is caused by choice, by psychology, or by genetics. And I don't believe the cause is relevant to the legal and constitutional question of marriage.

I don't consider either homosexuality or heterosexuality to be a "behavior." Celibates experience desire, so they still belong in one of those categories. I was romantically and sexually attracted to females years before I consummated my first relationship. In fact, I knew I was straight before I knew what sex was. I suspect that gays have similar experiences.

But I agree that homosexuality and skin color are not quite comparable. For one thing, whites are not pressuring blacks to change their skin color. Homosexuality is a matter of personal belief.

I'm glad you pointed out your use of "deviant," which is an emotionally loaded word for many people no matter what their orientation. My point is this--just because homosexuality doesn't conform to someone's definition of normalcy doesn't make it wrong. Whether homosexuality is right or wrong is a matter of personal belief, not objective fact.

Posted by: John | June 16, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Linguist, I don't think it advances the argument much to debate whether one can 'be' a homosexual without ever having had sex; since that describes such a small proportion of the gay community, let's just take it as a given that homosexuals are those who engage in gay sex, OK?

I'm glad that you found love, are in a committed relationship, etc. Despite what some on the right might think, I respect your right to do what you're doing, regardless of the ick factor...a factor I'm sure you feel for 'normal' sexual relationships.

But, like it or not, it IS a behavior. Note that I never said it's dangerous, and I don't necessarily equate homosexuality with greater likelihood of pedaphila or promoscuity (although perhaps someone reading this could point us to some stats).

So, live your life responsibly, as you say you have done to date. Get the wills, finances, power of attorney etc. squared away. But please don't try to cheapen 'normal' marriage by broadening the definition to something it's not. If you still think this is 'mistreating homosexuals', I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

To Al Erock:

I am a liberal who supports non-discrimination against gays. But I am also a big believer in the 1st Amendment. You said that Mr. Smith made those comments as an "appointed public official". Did he? I disagree. By my reading of the Post article, it appears to me that he was not on that cable show in his capacity as a Metro Board member. Firing him from his job is wrong and should send shivers down the spine of all of us who treasure free speech.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Why is ANYONE surprised at Bobby Hairspray's reaction and firing of Bob Smith? This was a no brainer, something with which Bobby is quite familiar.

Just a correction Bob Smith appears on the Channel 21 program not as a public official but as a"Republican Activist.

Posted by: jmsbh | June 16, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

To those that think it's acceptable to treat gays as second-class citizens, denying us literally a thousand legal and financial benefits wrapped up in marriage, ..... I'd ask this....

Why is it that our taxes aren't second class as well? We pay the same taxes you do. In fact, we often pay higher taxes.

Taxes are a bargain you strike with our government. In return for taxes the government then doles out the goodies, things like social security survivor benefits, military pension benefits, etc.

As it stands now gays are taxed at full rate but we receive cut rate services back in return. In a sense you could say our taxes are subsidizing systems set up for straight people only.

If we don't deserve the basic rights of society that you are now reserving just for yourselves, then why do we have to pay the same taxes as you, and why do we have to subsidize your government benefits? Talk about your 'special rights'.....

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse


What day did you decide to be straignt? Since you think sexual orientation is a choice, surely you can remember when you chose to be straight?

Do you celebrate that day each year, the celebration of your choice to be straight?

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

JD: There are literally a thousand benefits (sorry, don't have the website link handy, but a quick search on 'marriage benefits' should turn up good lists) that is reserved for straights through marriage.

Living wills just don't cover everything. And, do you really expect gay people to carry voluminous documents with them literally every time they leave the house, to protect ourselves in case of accident or unforeseen legal or medical emergency? What are we supposed to do? Tattoo them to our foreheads?

As for living our lives responsibly, that's what we're trying to do. But denying us the 1000 rights of marriage makes it difficult for us.

As for the 'normalcy' of marriage now, I'd suggest you straights haven't exactly done a bang-up job so far. A 50% divorce rate, Britney Spear's ridiculous 24 hour marriage, the TV show Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire.....

If that's 'normal' for you, I think maybe you should set your sights a bit higher.

But blaming gays for the decline of straight marriage is just ridiculous. You all seem to be doing a dandy job of deystroying the institution all on your own.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

OK Hillman, let me call your bluff.

You're saying, then, that you'll be satisfied if some kind of federal Civil Union is devised that allows homosexuals to reap the same government survivor benefits as married couples? That this is just a fiscal argument, not a whoop-n-holler war cry to rally the true believers?

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I want to be treated exactly like my numerous straight siblings. All of them have the right to get married and treat their marriages either terrifically or terribly.

I want the same right.

If they and all other straight people are satisfied with civil unions legally and an optional private marriage ceremony, I would be too.

No one group owns a concept like marriage. It's a universal concept. If you are going to deny it to one group, it needs to be denied to all.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"No one group owns a concept like marriage. It's a universal concept. If you are going to deny it to one group, it needs to be denied to all. "

To paraphrase the brothers, it's a straight thing. You wouldn't understand.

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Further to JD:

The concept of marriage has an intrinsic value above and beyond just the legal and financial benefits. It's a great stabilizer (imagine how many more straight men would cheat on their wives if they weren't married).

And for many (but not all) it's an important part of their religious experience.

In an odd twist, you are suggesting that the basic tenets of religion are being denied to gays. A good many churches would be quite happy to perform gay marriages, but folks like you seem determined to stop them from practicing their religious beliefs because you personally don't like them.

And to many it's a very, very important personal step in their lives.

You simply have no moral right to reserve that for one group of people, absent any legitimate reason to do so.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I think Erhlich did the right thing in firing Smith. When you are in a political office and are in the public view, you do not have a free pass to make insensitive remarks without some consequences. To those who disagree, do you think it was inappropriate for Trent Lott to be repremanded with the loss of the Senate Majority Leader position after making insensitive remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday celebration? Just like Smith, he made inappropiate remarks and had to pay a price.

To those commentors who are not gay, I don't believe you have any insight or ability to define what being gay is. As a gay man, let me clarify. Being gay is not who you sleep with, it's who you love. I could be celebate and still be gay because I have no romantic feelings for women. I never had (despite trying my luck in a few relationships) and never will. The gay/straight dichotomy is a creation of the past 40 years and is quite frankly inaccurate.

Posted by: D in MoCo | June 16, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"Linguist, I don't think it advances the argument much to debate whether one can 'be' a homosexual without ever having had sex; since that describes such a small proportion of the gay community, let's just take it as a given that homosexuals are those who engage in gay sex, OK?"

Well, whether it "advances the argument" or not, I have to state what I believe to be the case: there is such a thing as sexual orientation. THAT'S what gay people are talking about when they say they are gay. And I would be gay AND I would be in a loving, committed relationship with the person I love even if I were a quadraplegic, incapable of "doing" anything.

An analogy: There are probably very few Deaf people around in the U.S. today who don't use ASL. But that doesn't mean that deafness is a behavior. It isn't.

And neither is being gay "a behavior."

There is VERY little that is relevant to this discussion that has to do with private sexual behavior and what there is is completely my business (and my partner's). It isn't relevant to this discussion, in my view.

Yet THAT is precisely what Mr. Smith brought up in a public discussion. As such, Mr. Smith's comments, I believe, completely distort the discussion. Leave my bedroom alone, thank you very much. That's NOT the crux of the discussion about gay people and how society ought to treat us.

What we are protecting isn't our right to have sex, "deviant" or otherwise, though I take it as a given that we have that right. So do you as a heterosexual.

Rather, we are protecting our rights as citizens to be treated fairly, as gay people, and, more recently, as gay couples.

My partner and I want to protect our mutual property, our ability to make important decisions as a couple, to protect ourselves as a couple. We expect society to understand that we live our lives together and share the financial, medical and other decisions that couples share.

You want to define me based on private, consensual sexual behavior. I reject that. You'll NEVER know what I do or do not do in private--I don't plan on telling you.

As such, your claim that being gay is a "behavior" distorts what the public discussion is all about.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Marriage is a 'straight thing'?


Why stop there? Why not make owning property a 'straight thing'? Why not say only straight people can own a pet? Why not say gay people can't drive cars, or visit their dying parents in the hospital?

Once you start saying entire groups are not equal humans and citizens, how do you know where to stop, legally and morally?

And, funny, I don't see you saying taxes are a 'straight thing'.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

A word about the firing of Mr. Smith:

I have mixed feelings. I found his comments to be pejoratives --slurs against innocent people. But the first amendment isn't about protecting speech that we like. It's about protecting speech that we dislike, including Mr. Smith's loathsome comments.

That said, I find the new "political correctness" of the right wing to be untenable. They cry "intolerance" when people whom they agree with suffer consequences for their speech while telling their opposition that criticizing them is unacceptable. The "Dixie Chicks" were decried for expressing their views. Boycotts were called for.

The murky part of the Mr. Smith discussion is whether he was speaking as an individual or as a representative of the government. As an individual, he certainly has the right to say obnoxious things.

As a representative of the government, he must exercise some restraint, since his speech doesn't simply count as his own opinion.

And finally, I would hope that Mr. Smith would be treated precisely the same as a government employee who had claimed that black people were lazy, Jews were greedy or that Baptists were going to hell for worshipping a human being as a god.

Somehow, I suspect that those on the right would be up in arms had Mr. Smith made his comments against Baptists rather than against gay people.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

OK, my last thoughts on this, then let's give someone else a turn.

Hill, the thousands of years of marriage's stabilizing influence is to benefit families (defining family in the biologically normal way: man, woman, children). The main benefit to society from marriage is that dads will stick around to support mom and kids. The government thought it a good idea to encourage this, hence the odd 'marriage' (pardon the pun) of religion and public policy. Without some kind of semi-permanent joining of the parents legally, far more kids and moms would be destitute and society would suffer. There is probably also an argument to be made about whether women tend to calm men down from some of our baser instincts, act as a support layer, stop us from killing each other, thievery, tomcatting around, etc., you know the kinds of things that end up in the Sunday Post under Unconventional Wisdom...

There is little similar benefit to society from gay marriage, since, barring some medical wizardry, there won't be any kids.

If you want to join some whack-job church that says men can marry other men (or cows, or chairs, or whatever), that's fine, just don't ask that it be recognized by government.

BTW, most of America feels this way, including the Democratic Party. This is why the DOMA passed overwhelmingly, and Gay Marriage is illegal everywhere except Mass (where it took an out-of-control court to rule by fiat).

As a Republican, the best thing I could hope for is that the Dems make this an issue at the polls.

And to Linguist, we're talking about Gay Marriage here, not the definition of homosexuality. Unless you're suggesting a lot of 'non-practicing gays' are trying to get married to samesex partners, what's your point?

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Sorry--the last posting (1:37 PM) was mine-- I forgot to fill in the name field.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"And to Linguist, we're talking about Gay Marriage here, not the definition of homosexuality. Unless you're suggesting a lot of 'non-practicing gays' are trying to get married to samesex partners, what's your point?"

My point remains that being gay ISN'T A BEHAVIOR. Gay people get married for the same suite of reasons that heterosexual people get married: because they live their lives as a couple. Whether they are "non-practicing" in terms of what goes on in their bedrooms or not is irrelevant.

But it makes for an easy club for those claiming that "homosexuality is aberrant behavior".

Tell me: How is that statement relevant to ANYTHING?

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Just a note here:
If you've ever taken Psych 101 you would probably learn about defense mechanisms--where an individual, usually subconsciously, mentally does something to counter something else which is uncomfortable. One of the best understood is "repression," where one forgets memories that are uncomfortable.

A less commonly known defense mechanism is a "reaction formation." This is where someone--subconsciously--creates a feeling or reaction opposite to the one with which they are uncomfortable. This then emphasizes to them and others that the real feeling(s) in fact do not exist.

Homophobia is perhaps one of the best examples of a reaction formation. An individual who has homosexual feelings, but is afraid of or uncomfortable with them, develops homophobia instead. This then makes it clear to both them and others that they in fact do not have any homosexual feelings. The greater the homosexual feelings, the stronger the homophobia that must be expressed to make it clear those feelings do not exist.

This doesn't mean that every homophobe is having such a reaction. Many others are uneducated and/or unhappy with their own lives, and take it out on others. Some are also taught by their family and community to be homophobic--though to express it regularly and vehemently there must be a reason for why they need to get out the anger against individuals who have done nothing to them. Others are just sociopaths, such as many in the KKK and militant neo-nazi groups.

The point is before you judge, condemn, discriminate against, or otherwise marginalize another person, you should look at your motivations for doing so. Perhaps there is something else you can do to improve your own life that doesn't involve hurting the life of another.

Posted by: psych student | June 16, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Linguist, please calm down.

The reason you're seeing 'behavior' mentioned in conjunction with 'gay' is to differentiate this expansion of marriage from interracial marriage, or other civil rights claims the gay community has been bandying about. The earlier posts in this thread hopefully put this in context.

I agree with you that one can be gay oriented without acting on it, OK?

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Re: Linguist...Good point about Smith speaking as a representative of government instead of an individual.

Re: JD...As a man, I object to your claim that men need straight marriage as a civilizing influence. Men are capable of learning responsible behavior on their own. Men and women were forming families and lasting relationships long before humankind thought of the idea of government.

You're right about gay marriage producing no kids. I say, why should that matter in the eyes of the law? None of us has a societal obligation to procreate. I find most claims about "benefiting society" to be suspect at best, because the claim usually masks some sort of agenda. There was a time when women were told they had to be subservient to men "for the good of society."

Posted by: John | June 16, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse

OK, last thing I swear -- no offense Linguist, but homosexuality IS aberrant behavior. One definition for aberrant I found online:

Deviating from what is normal; untrue to type.

So, like the ballet of nature, we've come full circle back to the subject of the column. Aberrant = Deviant = Not normal. This doesn't mean it's perverted, just not what most people do/are.

Get over it.

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Psych Student, I find the idea of homophobes as repressed homosexuals to be questionable. It sounds like something a gay activist would suggest to have a moral victory over the men who murdered Matthew Shepherd.

Posted by: John | June 16, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse


Perfectly calm here. Really. I just use caps because I haven't figured out how to italicize on this thing. ;-)

Again, while analogies are never perfect, being gay isn't any more a behavior than being black, or being deaf, or being short, or, for that matter, being afraid of spiders.

People realize they are gay, usually at a young age. It's a part of who I am. And it's not a behavior.

Allowing gay people to marry is perhaps more analogous to allowing Deaf people to attend public schools: ALL children have a right to a public education. We accommodate Deaf people by making sure that education is accessible to them. We use ASL rather than spoken English. Neither hearing kids nor spoken English suffers as a result.

Gay people should be able to get married precisely because marriage is so important to society and gay people are a part of society. Gay people form relationships just as ALL people do. They don't do so because "homosexuality is a behavior".

They do so because relationships are an important part of life regardless of whether you are straight or gay.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Let's get something straight (no pun intended). Being gay is a disease. The cure of which is AIDS.

Posted by: Schlomo | June 16, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse


No offense taken.

You wrote:

"So, like the ballet of nature, we've come full circle back to the subject of the column. Aberrant = Deviant = Not normal. This doesn't mean it's perverted, just not what most people do/are."

As a linguist, I think we need to look beyond literal definitions when people utter comments such as "homosexuality is aberrant behavior".

If "aberrant" simply meant "not what most people do/are", then Jews would be aberrant. So, for that matter, would presidents from Texas. ;-)

I think Mr. Smith made his opinion pretty clear: he doesn't think that what gay people "do" (at least, what he pictures us "doing" in private) is a good thing. It was a judgment, and one meant to slam a group of innocent people as not-so-innocent--as, in fact, bad.

I think one could fairly paraphrase his statement as "gay people should remain celibate for life, because the things they do are just plain weird." Or at least, "What 'those people' do is a bad thing. Let's not pretend that it's ok for them to do what they do, ok? They do BAD THINGS."

He just knows that that's not quite as seemly as "homosexuality is aberrant".

It's also no more accurate.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Mr. Smith's comments:

They were - by definition correct. If those of the politically correct ilk wish to attach a negative conotation to an accurate statement, so be it.

Posted by: Registered Voter | June 16, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The day that it becomes "politically correct" to attack a group of innocent citizens is not a day to celebrate.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

While I disagree with JD about the role of government on this issue, I wouldn't classify JD as a homophobe.

Schlomo, on the other hand, sounds like Eric Rudolph.

Posted by: John | June 16, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

You can find "reaction formation" in any good psych text, and in fact can probably find it in a google search. It may or may not include homophobia, but it doesn't take someone too bright to make the conceptual leap. This is not something that was invented to create a moral victory over murderers.

Again I repeat this does not mean that all, or even most, homophobes are having reaction formations, though it is probably the reason for the actions of many or most of the most ardent anti-gay activists. It is probably also the reason for some of the most deviant views about homosexuals. I use the word "deviant" in the context of what has been written. Most people, even if they think gay marriage is wrong, or gay rights are wrong, do not think homosexual behavior should be punishable by death, is a disease, an unatural abomination, or some other belief that has been debunked by science.

Thus the person with the most "deviant" views of homosexuality, and the most militant anti-gay actions, is very likely repressing their own homosexual feelings by vehemently announcing to the world how horrible they believe homosexuality to be, and thus how incredibly heterosexual they are.

Getting to the comment about Mathew Shepard, there was something going on inside the heads of those boys that made them so angry as to commit murder against someone who had done nothing to them.

Posted by: psych student | June 16, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse


Mr. Smith did not attack anyone. He provided a text book definition of devience. It is you and others attaching the negative connotation to it.

Posted by: Registered Voter | June 16, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Those Roman Catholics must think they have the right of free speech and the freedom of religion!

Well, not in the state of Maryland, by gum!

Yeah, ol' "One-Term" Ehrlich as spoken.

Posted by: Rufus | June 16, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

There's no such thing as "gay marriage." Gay people can get married now -- as long as they marry people of the opposite sex. Just as white people could marry, as long as they married whites, and people of color could marry, as long as they married other people of color. The comparison between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage is made because race is recognized as a factor that we should not discriminate on the basis of, and sex is gradually reaching the same status. It started with letting people vote regardless of sex, has continued to let men attend nursing schools, women attend military academies, and hopefully will let two people marry regardless of their sex.

People who oppose same-sex unions are discriminating on the basis of gender. There is no "ick factor" unless you think it is icky for the law not to distinguish between a male spouse and a female spouse -- which our law currently does not. Under the law, there are no benefits nor burdens on a male spouse that do not exist for a female spouse. So the only restriction standing in the way of a man having a male spouse, or a woman having a female spouse, are the new laws and amendments popping up to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Posted by: PG | June 16, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The benefits of marriage extend far beyond support for women and biological children. Otherwise, the government wouldn't consider people married until they made a baby. You can't get your marriage annulled if your wife fails to produce offspring (unless you're Henry VIII). You can get your marriage annulled if you didn't "consummate" it, i.e. have sex. Also, as noted above, the law does not put responsibilities on male spouses that do not exist for female spouses. If a couple divorces and the man has been the primary domestic caretaker, the woman must help support him until he resumes a place in the non-domestic economy. There are remnants of bias in how judges may administer the law, but the law itself has nothing to distinguish between men and women.

As for the idea that "deviant" is an acceptably unloaded word to use to describe a minority, I don't look forward to the day that someone calls me a deviant for being raised in a polytheistic faith, unlike 95+% of Americans. Alaskans are less than 5% of the population, those deviants. So are Native Americans -- deviants. Or let's look at a broader group: since in nature most asthmatics would not survive, their continued existence is an aberration, and they're certainly deviant from the worldwide norm (as asthmatics do survive at much lower rates in developing countries). I'll be sure to point and yell "Deviant!" next time I see someone with an inhaler, and then get very put out when she dares to get offended by my just making a Factual Statement that SHE'S decided to take all negatively.

Posted by: PG | June 16, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

In firing Mr. Smith, Governor Erlich reflected the current standard for social tolerance. The governor essentially showed intollerance for intolerance, comments critical of gays. This did not abridge Mr. Smith's rights. Although on the TV show he did not speak as a public officer, he always was a public officer who served at the pleasure of the governor. He could just as easily have been let go for saying that Metro fares are too low or too high; if it contradicts the governor's policies or beliefs, or if the governor just doesn't like the way he combs his hair, he is gone.

That said, what Mr. Smith himself said is not that controversial. He took a personal stand based on his religious beliefs. I do not know Roman Catholic doctrine on the subject, I thought they took the stance the homosexuality was a sin. Does anyone know the official Roman Catholic stance and justification? It might be that Mr. Smith was fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs.

On the other hand I find the gay movement's antipathy to religion fascinating. There is an intrinisic anti-religious bias. No one knows the cause of homosexuality, whether it is innate or choice, many of us have our beliefs one way or another. My personal view is that it is a fixed, not chosen, aspect of gender identity. On the other hand the foundations and formations of gender identity are today a mystery to science; we do not know if it forms in the womb, is predisposed at conception or is environmental. But the idea that Mr. Smith's religious views were forced upon him through bad upbringing, one of the glorious myths of the perpetuation of anti-liberal views, is offensive; he is an adult, his view and beliefs are his own. For all I know God revealed Himself to Mr. Smith.

How quickly and easily advocates for gay society devolve all debates on gay social issues to an attack on the "religious right." As if, without religion, gays would have full equality and live in some ideal fantasy world of absolute equality.

No one knows what the long-term impact of same sex marriage would have on society. Personally I do not believe much more damage could be done to the institution of marriage. Beginning with the "palimony" cases of the '60s which basically created a right of divorce without marriage, the meaning of marriage has been undermined by an activist, liberal judiciary. I would welcome same sex marriage if and only if we returned to taking marriage seriously. Returned to a standard of behavior within and without marriage that would give marriage meaning again. One that outlawed cohabitation outside of marriage or at least eliminated a property right in out-of-wedlock relationships. Among other things, this would make it difficult for straight fraternity brothers to share a hotel room on spring break unless they were married, but that would probably improve life on the beach in Florida.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | June 16, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

registered voter: I don't think there is any question about the fact that Mr. Smith made his comment with an attached and intended negative connotation. Don't try to tell us that Mr. Smith meant to call gays deviant based on the textbook definition to mean different from the norm.

Posted by: g | June 16, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Correction: The palimony case, Marvin v. Marvin 18 Cal.3d 660, was 1976. No matter what your beliefs that was not part of the '60s.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | June 16, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse


For the record, I wouldn't label JD "homophobic". He's (assuming he's a he) has been respectful and has made reasoned arguments (even if I see flaws in them).

As an aside, I don't think I ever call anyone "homophobic" or "bigot" or...I just don't think name-calling is productive. It is a discourse stopper.

That in part is why Mr. Smith's comment labeling gay people as "sexual deviants" is also counterproductive. What's his point? Deafness is a "deviation" from the norm, left-handedness is a "deviation" from the norm, albinism is a "deviation" from the norm. Lots of things "deviate" from the norm.

Mr. Smith used the term to argue his case that gay people should be denied equal protection. By claiming that we're "deviant", he is able to pretend that THAT obviates the need for fair and equitable treatment under the law. It clearly doesn't.

We treat deaf people fairly-- heck, we even oblige TV manufacturers to make captioning available on TV sets, and oblige broadcasters to provide captioning.

If deaf people are "hearing deviants", why bother treating them fairly?

Consider what Mr. Smith's quote would sound like if it had been about the "deviance" of deaf people:

"But that doesn't mean that government should proffer a special place of entitlement within the laws of the United States for persons of [hearing] deviancy."

But we do, don't we, at least if you consider including deaf people in the institutions of society "a special place of entitlement". Why include deaf people at all? They're "deviants", right?

Because we as a society believe in fairness and inclusion, even for people who "deviate" from the norms. We look askance at people who mistreat deaf people. We know it's wrong. And we, as a society, do our best to make laws that reflect the understanding that even "deaf deviants" need to be included in society.

And we'd scratch our head in bewilderment at an official who made the argument that people who can't hear ought to be denied fair treatment under the law.

We all ought to be equally bewildered by someone who thinks "deviance" is a good excuse for the animus being shown by law makers (and others) toward innocent gay people.

It isn't a good excuse at all. And people who try it out need to be told just that.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Aaaarggghhh. OK, last one I promise (well, maybe not...)

Some thoughts on this discussion since my last post:

1) Smith used the term deviance. He maybe should have picked a less-loaded connotation. Still, it's factual. In fact, if he said 'sexual deviance', which I think he did, then he was being extraordinarily accurate. Come on folks, being deaf has nothing to do with getting married. Let's be real here. If the standard is now one that nobody can say anything that offends anybody, then we let the lowest common denominator (ie, whoever is most easily offended) dictate our language. Pass.

2) If you re-read my original posting, you'll see that I agree that Smith can be whacked by Ehrlich for using that term, or any other term, or wearing a color of tie that Bob doesn't like. He serves completely at the pleasure of the big man. That's the American way, and I happen to like it.

3) The word 'fair' is used many times by the proponents of gay marriage in this blog. I hate that word. For one, who decides what's fair? I guess the people should. Whether you measure by our representative government or polls, it's pretty clear that 'fairness' means no gay marriage, at least now. It does NOT mean that everyone is equal in all aspects, regardless of circumstances, actions, etc.

4) I use the term homosexual 'behavior' (by choice or God, I'm not sure either) is to differentiate from interracial marriage, which most gay marriage proponents continually trot out as a parallel situation. It is most assuredly NOT the same. I guess if someone is gay deep down but never acts on it, they could marry some poor woman and therefore never get denied 'gay marriage', but that seems such a silly line of reasoning to follow, and not what 99% of people are talking about when we discuss whether gay marriage should be allowed.

4) I realize that not all weddings result in offspring in heteros. That misses the point however - the traditional reason for governmental encouragement of marriage (notwithstanding the recent marriage penalty in the tax code since corrected by this administration) is to protect the financial wellbeing of women and kids. This has certainly made things better, in the long term, for society.

PS I'm a 'he'

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 5:08 PM | Report abuse

JD - You compare my loving longterm relationship to marrying a cow or a chair?

And 'society' definitely includes gay people. Marriage and other institutions are not only for the benefit of straight married couples. They are for the benefit of ALL in society.

Society at large would most definitely benefit from gay marriage. Any relationship that is more stable, less promiscuity, etc., is going to benefit the local community, etc.

And gays as individuals benefit. And society is, after all, made up of individuals.

So to say gay marriage would have no benefit to society is just incorrect.

You may not see the benefit, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

I certainly know it would exist, as it would improve my life in a number of ways.

And you never answered my question. Once you decide it's ok to treat gays as less than citizens and deny the very bedrock of strong relationships (for many), then why not go whole hog and deny us other rights, like the right to own property, the right to have pets, the right to live in 'your' neighborhood, etc?

It's a serious question. You've already stated that it's ok to discriminate against gays by denying us the 1000 rights of marriage. I'd just like to see how your argument stands up, taken to it's logical conclusion.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I too should probably call it quits for now--this was supposed to be my day off! ;-)

But briefly (yeah, right):

1) You're right. Being deaf has nothing to do with marriage. It does, however, have to do with a group of people that one could fairly label "deviant" and that we as a society have to figure out what to "do" with. Should we tell deaf kids that they deserve an education like everyone else or, since that might mean changing how we educate (i.e., providing them an education in ASL), isn't that giving them 'special rights'? What did THEY do to deserve 'special rights'?
I hope you get my point. My point wasn't about marriage. It was about how we as a just society treat people who are different. Do we exclude them because, well, because they are different, or do we try to ensure that they are included, to the greatest extent possible, in our society? I know how I answer that question. How do you?

As for offensive language, I really am a linguist. I used to have students look up the etymologies of the infamous four-letter words. Once they see that the "s**t" word (for excrement) is cognate with 'science' (and also 'discern' and 'conscience'), it begins to put cussing in some perspective. ;-)

There are probably more terms of abuse to hurl at gay people (real or presumed) than any other innocent group of people. Maybe we deserve it. Somehow, I really don't think we do.

3) I LOVE the word 'fair.' ;-) And I think it's crucial to understand it. It does NOT mean "the majority votes". That, as you know, would be de Tocqueville's "tyrannie de la majorité".

Rather, "fair" means that one must come up with strong, rational arguments for not treating people equally and that, if you can't, well, you aren't being "fair."

"Activist judges" (now there's one you probably like! ;-)) are actually simply looking at the laws and trying to apply, in as neutral a fashion as possible, tests to see which side in the argument is stronger. So far, in most courts, the side that favors equal treatment of same-sex couples has won. That actually tells you more about the ARGUMENTS for and against equal treatment of same-sex couples than it does about our judiciary.

4) Not all weddings result in offspring. Indeed, when my 70+ year old aunt married, she most of all would have fallen off her rocking chair in amazement had she gotten pregnant! That's NOT why she got married. Nor is it why I want to marry. I am in an interdependent relationship with another person. We share everything. It's virtually impossible to separate our finances or other aspects of our lives. I expect the law to reflect the reality of our lives. I don't see why it shouldn't. It worked for auntie, it can work for me. ;-) And the resultant stability in MY relationship is a net plus for YOUR/OUR society.

Anyway, I've enjoyed our discussion. Feel free to respond (or not), now or later. We both no doubt have lives outside this board. At least, I try to. ;-)

Take care. I'm a "he" as well. A gay "he", but a "he" nonetheless. As proof, I have no marriage certificate. ;-)

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

My Webster's dictionary indeed defines "deviant" as "deviating from an accepted norm." Thus, the question really is: "What is the accepted norm of a given thing, issue, situation, etc.?" When one considers deafness, it is clear that within larger society, deafness deviates from the accepted norm of the hearing population. If one considers deafness from the perspective of the deaf community, then a hearing individual deviates from their accepted norm. Lest you miss my point, review the recent protest over Gallaudet University's naming provost Jane K. Fernandes its president. She deviates from their accepted norm because she can hear perfectly well. I feel it is this "acceted norm" that should be discussed regarding Mr. Smith and his comments. He certainly has the right to free speech. He is also entitled to his religious views, and if those views are that homosexuality is deviant within his religious values, then so be it. (I won't get into a discussion about his appearance on a cable TV shows as a Republican Activist and the fact that his position on the Metro Board may have given him both special access to express his opinion and a greater responsibility for more judicious commentary.) My problem with asserting one's religious values in defense of one's definition of deviant behavior raises the question: "What would God think?" I don't propose to speak for God (if indeed he/she/them exist), but I ask the pious Mr. Smith that if we are all made in God's image, then who are we to judge or question God's work? I am not religious, nor am I a believer, but I am a scientist. Check out the article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol 102, no. 20, pages 7356-7361, by Ivanka Savic et al. Published in 1995, this article analyzes the brain response to putative pheromones in homosexual men. The bottom line is that there appears to be a link between sexual orientation and hypothalamic neuronal processes. God made homosexual men respond to male stimuli. Hence, there is no deviancy in being a homosexual and responding as a homosexual. From my observations and discussions with co-workers, acquaintances and family, I would offer the opinion that the problem that "straight" society seems to have with homosexuals most likely comes from "normal society's" extreme dislike of feminined gay men. Now if you want to get into a psychological discussion about the intertwined traits of homophobia and misogyny, then we may be onto a source of Mr. Smith's problem...

Posted by: wisecracker | June 16, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Just a few quick (okay, maybe no so quick) observations:

1) Ehrlich had every right to fire Smith. To let an at-will employee who made bigoted statements on the air remain on the (taxpayer-funded) payroll would be a political mistake and an ethical no-no. Smith was given an opportunity to apologize and he refused. Ehrlich had no choice, especially in an election year.

2) Marriage is, at its core, a contract between two individuals who are able to enter into a legally binding agreement. That means no underage kids, no toasters, no turtles, etc. People who argue that allowing same-sex marriage would open the door to all kinds of other "marriages" are either being deliberately disingenuous or are obviously idiots who for the good of society should themselves refrain from ever reproducing. And for safety's sake they probably shouldn't be allowed near toasters either.

3) Marriage is an exclusive contractual arrangement between two parties. Obviously the government is permitted to define the number of parties the partnership arrangement can contain, just as in any other legally recognized multiparty arrangement: sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc. The government is indeed within its right to specify that a marriage consists of two individuals--no more, no less. What the government canNOT do is to specify what gender either party may be, just as it cannot tell me whether my business partner(s) must be male or female; for it to do otherwise is simple and outright gender discrimination. Eventually, based solely on the above, same-sex marriage will HAVE TO be recognized as no less legal than the "traditional" kind if the legal system itself is to maintain any consistency or legitimacy.

4) I have to laugh anytime I see a conservative declare that homosexuality is a choice. The word "choice" implies a decision between two or more possible options, so someone making the assertion that "it's a lifestyle choice" must have previously made such a choice him- or herself, which means that that person is unwittingly admitting to being bisexual. I mean, as a straight man, I never made a choice as to my sexual orientation because there was no other possible option. Someone who sees gayness as a choice could only legitimately do so if they themselves were attracted to both sexes and consciously "chose" the opposite one. It's just hilariously ironic that the "it's a choice" folks are by self-declaration waaay more bisexual than us non-choice-believing straights--they don't realize that each time they bring up the "c" word they're admitting their own "deviancy." LOL

5) Seeing two committed and loving adults consecrate their relationship does no harm to marriage, period. Unlike, say, Britney Spears and [insert male here], gay couples who wed aren't likely to take such a step frivolously. It might even make some straight folks re-examine their own relationships with an eye to permanence: "Y'know, Bob and Joe are gay and they got married even with everyone wanting them to fail, so why the heck aren't we married yet when we have everything going for us?"

Posted by: KR20852 | June 16, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Nice post, KR20852.

I've been mulling over the governor's action all day. I have to tell you that I am leaning toward thinking he made a mistake.

Do I think that Mr. Smith's comments were nasty, even slanderous? Yes, I do.

But I don't know what that has to do with making decisions for Metro.

Ultimately, we must all live together. I take Metro occasionally. I don't want to be attacked, verbally or otherwise, when I am on the train.

But I also think Mr. Smith's comments were so poorly thought out and so easily countered that we'd do better to "take him on" than to dismiss him.

When rational arguments are made about how gay people ought to be treated under the law, gay people win.

I'd rather let others rant while we do the reasoned argumentation. In the end, I think we'll all be a lot better off.

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

All right guys, let's call it quits, I'm not sure we advanced anything here today, but at least we got a look at each others' cards, which can't be all bad.

And Hillman, how dare I compare your relationship to marrying a cow, etc... Why, that would just cheapen something you hold dear, something longstanding, something you presumed was above politics.

And now you know how we feel.

Are we having an 'aha' moment yet?

Posted by: JD | June 16, 2006 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Ok, MY final comment (I hope) for the time-being:

I am not having an "aha" moment. Why? Because I've long understood that same-sex marriage strikes some as a sort of political thumb in the eye.

But you know what?

Doesn't matter. It isn't MEANT as a thumb in the eye. And it certainly isn't meant to cheapen marriage.

Quite the contrary.

I don't want to marry my partner for political gain. I want to marry him because, in my life, there is no one more important, and no relationship that I want to protect more than this one. It IS a marriage in deed if not in law. The question is why pretend that it is not? Just because some will see it as an attack on "their" institution?

It isn't "their" institution. It belongs to everyone, including me. I have as much a stake in my society as you do, as much a stake in this important institution as you do.

And if I thought for one second that same-sex marriages would weaken or cheapen or harm an institution that I hold dear, I would be in the front line of those opposing same-sex marriage. Honestly I would. But so far, all the arguments convince me of just the opposite.

I like to tell this anecdote. It's absolutely true: When I was 5, I had a tantrum until my parents caved in and bought me my first record (remember records??). It was a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "Love and Marriage."

I kid you not.

Once I began to picture my own wedding, I had my own "aha" moment when I realized that the person I pictured walking alongside me was...gasp, a man.

So, my friend, don't think I don't understand what it is that makes you uneasy. I really do. I just think I need to do a little more convincing till you have your own "aha" moment. ;-)

Posted by: Linguist | June 16, 2006 8:22 PM | Report abuse

JD - you have yet to answer my question. Since you're ok with discrimination, how far do you think it should go? And why should there be any boundary at all?

I seriously want an answer. You were brave enough to post your statements comparing my loving relationship to a relationship with an animal.

At least be brave enough to answer questions that will most probably show the shallowness of your argument.

But, then, you can't really answer that one with an intelligent response, can you? Because there is no logical response that doesn't involve either a destruction of your argument or a revelation of more deep-seeded bigotry.

As for an 'aha' moment, no, not really. Just another sad moment realizing that hate isn't a thing of the past.

When it comes right down to it, it's none of your business if me and my partner want to marry or not. It's a private matter between the two of us, and any attempt to deny us basic rights and make our lives more difficult is self-centered, arrogant, and morally bankrupt.

Posted by: Hillman | June 16, 2006 8:43 PM | Report abuse

KR20852, why do you believe that the government can or should be allowed to limit the number of parties in a marriage?

If there is no restriction based on gender, why are we to believe that family units of two are some special construct? What is there about marriage, its purpose, that by its nature restricts it to two?

(I will omit for the moment whether it should be limited to hominids, as I think we can all agree that if it is not deviant, beastiality is at least outside of the norm, accepted social standards, and we really don't want to introduce PETA here.)

There is clearly greater historical precedent for polygamy than there is for single gender marriages. Besides the current U.S. restrictions are a form of discrimination based on religious doctrine, a collusion of religion and state. And I would think above all religions general gay bigotry would reject Mormon orthodoxy most of all. Aren't they the folks behind the boy scouts?

Posted by: Constitutionalist | June 16, 2006 10:27 PM | Report abuse

What ever happened to freedom of speech or is that just a gay thing now adays? I think Smith should sue. He didn't break a law, he just spoke what was on his mind. Whether we agree with it or not, he still has rights. Yes, what he said was inappropriate but he still has the right to his opinion. I think he was discriminated against. Sorry!

Posted by: rj | June 17, 2006 4:40 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Ehrlich's knee jerk reaction shows the limited thought given to his decision to remove Mr. Smith from his position on the Metro Board. What does Mr. Smith's opinion on gay marriage and/or any other topic non-related to his role as a Metro Board member have to do with whether he is doing a good job on the Metro Board? Mr. Smith and Mr. Graham should both be entitled to their personal and religious beliefs as long as they do not interfere with the performance of their official duties. With all of the problems which need to be resolved at Metro, shouldn't Mr. Graham be working with the other Board members to get them resolved rather than wasting time worrying about Mr. Smith's personal and/or religious beliefs and what he said on a TV show related to a topic having nothing to do with Transportation? Why was this topic brought up in the Metro Board meeting as it clearly has nothing to do with providing the region with the transportation solutions which are desperately needed? What offical WMATA business was not completed by the Board while this topic totally unrelated to providing transportation to the region was being discussed? Would Mr. Graham also suggest that all WMATA employees which are Roman Catholics or any other religion which formally does not support gay marriage either apologize for their religious beliefs or be removed from their positions?

Posted by: Someone who mistakenly voted for Ehrlich | June 17, 2006 8:09 AM | Report abuse

rj: "...What ever happened to freedom of speech or is that just a gay thing now adays?.."

Just to be fair, we need to point out that ALL sides of these debates engage in such tactics.

You may recall, for example, that all three commercial broadcast networks (and I believe most cable networks) refused a United Church of Christ promotional ad. It featured a gay couple being turned away at a church. The ad made the point that the United Church of Christ welcomes all.

The networks refused to air the ad because of its "controversial nature".


ALL sides do this. And it's dumb.

For years, virtually all newspapers and other media refused ANY mention of gay issues. There was complete censorship. When I was growing up, the only mention of anything remotely gay-related had to do with police arrests of people. It gave a grossly distorted picture of what it meant to be gay. There were virtually no books available on the open stacks of my public library on the subject.

And there I was, a young teen trying desperately to understand what I was and what was going on inside me. I survived, but it took a lot of courage and a lot of detective work on my part. All because our society shut down discussion on this very real topic.

As I said in an earlier post, let Mr. Smith make his silly comments. Respond by letting him know WHY they are so silly--it really isn't difficult.

And "the good guys" (in this case, the innocent gay and Lesbians being targeted by politicians on the Right) win.

A much better strategy, in my opinion.

And it has the added advantage of letting people see just what innocent gay people face on a regular basis.

Posted by: Linguist | June 17, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Well, I doubt anyone's still reading this, but......

Hillman, about my comments about you marrying livestock, furniture, et al. You need to relax, and go back and read the context. Someone was saying how it was ironic that I (or others like me) were denying the gay community religious outlet, due to our off-scale bigotry, homophobia, etc. You obviously assumed I was part of the evangelical right (I'm not, btw, but I do go to church). I said that nobody is denying anyone anything - that if you wanted to join some crazy church where anything goes, then go for it, nobody's stopping you. In other words, you're not being denied religion, but you self-select out of church once you go down your sexual path.

Now Hill, I'm trying to figure out what discrimination question you want answered, since you asked me to answer it 3 times. What other rights should be denied gays, is that it? The answer is, gay people should be treated as normal (uh oh, there's that word again, don't hate me lingust :-) in all aspects of everything, unless behavior dictates otherwise. From banking to pet ownership to contracts, sexuality should have nothing to do with it. But it has a lot to do with marriage, surely you would agree with that.

Say, that reminds me... whoever said marriage is 'just a contract' (forgive the paraphrase, I'm too lazy to scroll up that far) - NO IT'S NOT!!!! That's the entire crux of this issue! If all you care about is the contractual rights and obligations of marriage, then you can have civil unions. If that's not enough, well then it sounds like you're just taking a position to upset people, which may be your entire goal.

Remember, most of America agrees with me, not with you. I know about the tyrrany of the majority, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a more objective definition of 'fairness' (again, a word I cannot stand because it gets hijacked all the time...who decides whether it's fair to pay a certain wage, to allow abortions, to have racial quotas for jobs, etc...). Majority rule seems to work out OK for America, for the most part.

So, you can have your coffee and discuss books at Lambda Rising all day long, but consider that you are in the minority here. Does that make you wrong? I don't know, and neither do you - all I have is my opinion.

Posted by: JD | June 18, 2006 8:53 AM | Report abuse

"Well, I doubt anyone's still reading this, but......"

Um....I still am. ;-)

I don't have much of a response--I'm with you that I dislike rehashing the same points multiple times.

I would say, in terms of civil unions, that my main concern is that they are not portable. If I could have a civil union that was recognized in every state AND by the federal government, and that afforded my relationship all the protections (and responsibilities) that your marriage contract affords you, I really don't think I'd lose sleep over the fact that it was a separate but equal institution.

Of course, I really don't think that politicians on the right WANT that. They don't WANT to recognize my relationship. At all. And for largely political reasons--I hope you'll grant me that point at least.

And to me, that's the crux of the dilemma: I am not being permitted to sign a contract that protects my relationship. You are. That, my friend, is the (brace yourself) "unfairness" I talk about. ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 18, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"Well, I doubt anyone's still reading this, but......"

Um....I still am. ;-)

I don't have much of a response--I'm with you that I dislike rehashing the same points multiple times.

I would say, in terms of civil unions, that my main concern is that they are not portable. If I could have a civil union that was recognized in every state AND by the federal government, and that afforded my relationship all the protections (and responsibilities) that your marriage contract affords you, I really don't think I'd lose sleep over the fact that it was a separate but equal institution.

Of course, I really don't think that politicians on the right WANT that. They don't WANT to recognize my relationship. At all. And for largely political reasons--I hope you'll grant me that point at least.

And to me, that's the crux of the dilemma: I am not being permitted to sign a contract that protects my relationship. You are. That, my friend, is the (brace yourself) "unfairness" I talk about. ;-)

Posted by: Linguist | June 18, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Sorry about the double post--I received an error message and so I clicked "Submit" a second time. Oh well.

Posted by: Linguist | June 18, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Linguist, I'm glad that you and I at least have kept the conversation productive.

FWIW, I could go with a fed civil union statute....but the conservative in me (*not social conservative*) hates the idea of states being dictated-to by the feds. But, on the other hand (and isn't there always an other hand?), people are much more mobile today, state-to-state, than when the constitution was written, and some things must be handled federally. (And Hill, now don't be goin' all civil rights on us, I'm not goin that far...)

See you in future postings, Ling.


Posted by: JD | June 18, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Ditto your comments, JD.

Take care. I'll look forward to future discourse with you as topics arise.

Posted by: Linguist | June 18, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

JD -

I haven't made jokes and compared your relationship with your spouse spouse to a relationship with a cow. But you have no problem doing that to me. So, yes, I take offense when you compare mine to a barnyard animal. You would do the same.

So you say gay people deserve equal rights EXCEPT the most basic of all personal unions - marriage?

That stance doesn't make a lot of sense. What you are saying is that it's not morally acceptable to deny us other rights (those that we theoretically already have), but it is morally acceptable to deny us a right that is currently politically acceptable to deny?

Sounds a lot like the idea that bigotry is ok as long as a lot of people approve and as long as you think you can get away with it.

Sortof like what they used to tell black people. As recently as the 1960s a majority of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage.

Does that mean it was morally acceptable to deny it to loving couples?

According to your argument, apparently so.

Majority rule is a fairly poor argument. Do I really need to bring up the ideas that majority rule have approved of in the US? Slavery. Subjugation of women. Segregation. And that's just the big ones. There have been countless others.

And why is denial of the 1000 rights of marriage OK but denying us other rights is not, morally and from a civic citizenship standpoint? You advanced this idea, so I'd like an actual answer.

As for your statement that my being gay means I've 'self-selected out of church' - that's a fairly arrogant position. It may mean I'm not welcome in your church, but it has nothing to do with how welcome I am in my church.

Or are you suggesting that only your church and your religion are legitimate and mine can just be ignored and discounted?

Same with marriage. Your idea of marriage is just as foreign to me as my idea of marriage is to you.

But the difference is I'm not trying to tell you you can't marry the one you love. But you have no problem telling me I can't marry the one I love.

As for wrong versus right, any person that uses the law to make another person's life more miserable or even just more difficult for no valid reason is morally despicable.

And that is exactly what you are proposing we continue doing.

So, yes, I'm right. Morally. And in the end, my side will win. Because it's the right thing to do.

Posted by: Hillman | June 18, 2006 8:26 PM | Report abuse

It is terribly unfortunate that politicians (Gov. Ehrlich in our case) frequently choose political expedience over morality. Expedience is taking the route that is the most popular, easy route (homosexuality is popular and pushed down our throats by Hollywood/NYC entertainment capitals).
Morality, true morality (not Hillman's personal morality) is doing what is right based on absolute truth.
Where many go wrong is in thinking that absolute truth is decided by public opinion. If you get every single voter in the US to agree that sodomy is wholesome safe and as American as apple pie it will still be MORALLY WRONG.
Homosexuality will always be wrong because the Bible, the Word of God, declares it is wrong (both Jewish and Christian scriptures). No matter how inclusive and tolerant "your church" or your Governor is, sodomy will always be uncool with God.
Complain all you want about the Bible, but it is a legitimate historical document. It is trustworthy and reliable. The shifting sands of popular opinion are not.
You might think I'm homophobic or hateful. You'd be wrong. I am fiercely interested in the truth. Think about this: Truth, by definition is Intolerant. If there is no such thing as absolute truth, then you can do whatever you want to/with whomever you want and no one- including government or authority figure- has any right to stop you.
Forget about the Governor. Forget about "Big Brother." Forget about the religious right. BEWARE of Truth.

Posted by: Rob | June 19, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

JD: "but the conservative in me (*not social conservative*) hates the idea of states being dictated-to by the feds...

I can appreciate that. As a libertarian, I hate the idea of any government at any level dictating my personal values and beliefs. A government that would ban gay marriage for arbitrary reasons would prevent others from getting married for equally arbitrary reasons.

Re: Constitutionalist
"No one knows what the long-term impact of same sex marriage would have on society." Why would it have any impact? Do you believe that the availability of gay marriage would tempt straights to switch teams?

Posted by: John | June 19, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse


According to the Bible slavery is okey dokey, as is subjugation of women. And let's not forget that little Biblical admonition saying that soldiers must wait 30 days before raping the wives of dead soldiers from the losing side (you know, out of respect).

Should we base US law on those Biblical passages as well?

Or is it just homosexuality that you think should get such special treatment.

Incidentally, my church is 100% in favor of gay marriage.

Yours isn't. That's fine.

But that does not give you some God-given mandate to make my life more difficult because you think I'm a sinner.

You are not God's Little Earthly Avenger. If God has a problem with me and my partner, He'll take it up with us on Judgement Day. Last time I checked He's not relying on you to make my life difficult here on earth as some sort of precursor to Him taking it up with me later.

Until then, mind your own business.

Posted by: Hillman | June 19, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Re: Hillman...While I agree with your general point, I also believe it's pointless to use Biblical passages to make your argument. That's because no religion's holy book should be used as the basis for US law. America is not a theocracy. The doctrines of any religion, Christian or otherwise, are irrelevant to the legality of gay marriage.

Posted by: John | June 19, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Now, if Gov Bob woulda fired Gov Willy Don for highly inappropiate,insensitive,unacceptable behavior with a certain young lady in the workplace,I could believe this was a principled firing,but alas...

Posted by: Joe | June 19, 2006 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Book, chapter and verse. You must have those parts of the Bible highlighted. Tell us where they are.

You can't offer Biblical citations for your points in proper context. (Most of what people claim to justify aberrant behavior are OT references applicable only to ancient Israel, that are meant for a specific people in a specific era). Context is king.

Speaking of references: Leviticus 20:13 in the OT combined with I Timothy 1:10 and I Corinthians 6:9 in the NT give plenty of food for thought. Can't get much more clear than that. When it comes to "church vs. Bible," the Bible rules every time. BEWARE of Truth.

Posted by: Rob | June 20, 2006 8:48 AM | Report abuse

It seems that many individuals, upon recognizing within themselves certain predilictions, orientations, preferences, and, yes, perversions, unilaterally declare the absolute propriety thereof and label anyone who does not gladly and fully accept those things as ignorant, phobic, fanatic and intolerant.

Posted by: William | June 20, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse


So only parts of the Bible are to be followed? But you said earlier it was all infallible. Which is it?

And Paul was the one that went on about slaves obeying their masters. That's New Testament, baby.

Here's a link to a whole slew of Bible verses okaying slavery. And they are ALL New Testament...

And are you really suggesting that the New Testament has no passages okaying subjugation of women? Really?

Still want to claim that all those references are for 'specific people in a specific era' but that somehow magically similar verses about homosexuality are for modern times?

Why the discrepancy?

Posted by: Hillman | June 20, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

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