Friday, March 11, 2011

They Just Don't Want The Bill (Update)

It never really changes, does it?

Two weeks ago Maryland's state Senate passed legislation approving same sex marriage by a vote of 25-21. The bill is currently being debated by the lower house and is, was, expected to be put up for a vote today. It's prospects for approval are unclear. Delegates previously on record for supporting marriage equality, even those who originally co-sponsored the bill, have backtracked, deterred by opposition in their districts, largely from church groups. And of course this is a very proper and necessary feature of our democracy, that legislation not be rushed through, that citizens from all walks of life have a chance to become aware and knowledgeable about the various courses of action being undertaken by their government.

At the same time, allow me to call BS. Marriage equality, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, doesn't pick anyone's pocket or break anyone's leg. Nor would it cause anyone to suffer. Nonetheless, there are people who just "don't want the bill".

So nothing ever really changes. Slow, hard-fought, incremental process is made on some matters. But if it appears someone else might get a right I reserve for myself, that I cannot abide. Yes, it's true, a certain legislative act might not hurt me in any material way, it might not take money from me or cause me direct injury. It might not even cause suffering to someone, or something else. But it would nonetheless offend me, it would present a different reality than what I subscribe to, it would lessen the degree of control I feel in this chaotic world. So, and perhaps even because, it would help others be happy and more fulfilled, I just "don't want it".

So, yeah, I'm calling bullshit on Delegate Alston's reversal of course in apparent acceptance of her community's mood. She, and the state's citizens, deserve a better argument, a better opposition, than just "not wanting the bill".

The failure of the anti-gay marriage contingent to come up with a reasonable, coherent argument was on full display during the proceedings in which a federal court heard evidence on California's notorious Proposition 8. Perhaps better publicized hearings and debate in Maryland would have helped highlight the opposition's lack of thoughtfullness on this issue. And maybe that opportunity will present itself again, either in future bills or in a referendum, should matters come to that.

But for now, the timid, uncritical acceptance of prejudice by some Maryland delegates is enough to make me sick.

Update: There was apparently not enough support in the House, so the delegates have kicked the bill back to the Judiciary Committee, effectively killing the effort on behalf of marriage equality for the year.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Marriage Equality in Maryland: Vote Expected Tomorrow

It hasn't gotten much attention nationally (there have been, admittedly, a few other things going on), but the Maryland state Senate recently passed a bill permitting same sex marriage (marriage, not civil unions). The bill is currently being debated in the state House, where it's prospects are less certain. Governor Martin O'Malley has promised to sign the bill if it is passed by the House. Opponents likewise promise to force a referendum on the 2012 ballot if the House passes the measure. Although Maryland is heavily Democratic, church groups, especially those in primarily African American Prince Georges County have spoken out against the bill.

Obviously I want the bill to pass, and have contacted my House delegates about it. All of them (Howard County Democrats) support it, and at least one is a co-sponsor.

However, even if the vote tomorrow is successful, the effort for marriage equality would be far from over. It's also apparent that marriage equality proponents have more work to do in broadening our supporting coalition.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Private money for schools?

The Wash Post editorial page likes the idea, waxing eloquent in its perpetual promotion of school "reform" by any means necessary:

Ms. Henderson's appointment will bring much-needed stabilization to the system. Many lower-ranking officials recruited by Ms. Rhee and attracted by the prospect of serious reform will feel comfortable staying on. Ms. Henderson also will be able to recruit strong new colleagues as needed and maintain the private financial support that Ms. Rhee managed to attract.

I wonder why this aspect of school "reform" hasn't attracted much notice. It seems like kind of a big feckin deal. The whole thing about the "public" part of public schools is the idea that the public funds them and has input on them. With, and how much, private funding of public schools, the public's influence over it's public schools is questionable.

The Post's editorialists have long weighed in against the supposed "pay for play" culture of neighboring Prince Georges County. But private funding of public schools carries its own brand of pay-for-play. The givers of private funds are presumably, and usually, more than a little casually interested in seeing those dollars implemented for certain, policy-specific reasons.