Stop Making Sense

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stop Making Sense

Yesterday Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich (R) fired DC Metro Board Transit Authority board member Robert Smith for saying the following on a local public access show.
On last weekend's show, Smith interrupted another speaker who was talking about federalism and Vice President Cheney's daughter. The speaker said Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, would not want the government interfering in her life, according to a recording of that portion of the show.

"That's fine, that's fine," Smith interrupted. "But that doesn't mean that government should proffer a special place of entitlement within the laws of the United States for persons of sexual deviancy."
Maryland Governor Ehrlich (R) has set a very interesting precedent for a GOP politician. Instead of parroting the party line that public servants have the right to have and publicly express anti-gay views, Ehrlich seemed to take a step towards treating anti-gay bigotry like any other kind of bigotry-- it's not acceptable.
"Robert Smith's comments were highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable," Ehrlich (R) said in a statement less than five hours after the controversy erupted during a Metro board meeting. "They are in direct conflict to my administration's commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity."
If Smith had called any other minority group "deviants," such as African-Americans, Muslims, or Jews, it would be quite clear that he crossed a line, the firing itself wouldn't be controversial. So for Ehrlich to seemingly treat anti-gay comments in the same way, I am happy to give him credit where credit is due-- nicely done, Governor.

However, what is most surprising to me about this controversy is that the decision to fire Smith came from very same governor who vetoed the Medical Decision Making Act last year because granting same-sex partners the ability to make medical decisions for each other "could lead to the erosion of the sanctity of traditional marriage." Also, I do think Smith has a point that he is not even in a position to set social policy that has any impact whatsoever on gays and lesbians.
Smith acknowledged after the meeting that he had referred to homosexuals as "persons of sexual deviancy" during a political round-table discussion on a Montgomery County cable show that was shown on Sunday.

"Homosexual behavior, in my view, is deviant," he said. "I'm a Roman Catholic." Smith said his comments had been part of a discussion about a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. "The comments I make in public outside of my [Metro board job] I'm entitled to make," he said. His personal beliefs, he said, have "absolutely nothing to do with running trains and buses and have not affected my actions or decisions on this board."
Then again, when Smith was called out by gay DC Council Member Jim Graham for his comments he didn't exactly acquiesce.
After the meeting, Smith accused Graham, a D.C. Council member, of using "high theater" to seek the media spotlight. He called his actions "highly out of order and inappropriate for this forum."
Asked whether he planned to apologize to Graham after Graham said the remarks were offensive, Smith replied: "I didn't make the comments to Mr. Graham. . . . I'm sorry he feels that way. I don't agree that his lifestyle is an appropriate way to lead one's life."
That's nice, it appears that regardless whether or not you should have been fired for you comments you clearly don't work well with others.

So, the bottom line is this-- why did Bob Ehrlich do this? Duh. Election-year politics. He's trying to convince people that he's a centrist as he prepares to announce his re-election bid. Hmmm...what would have been a far less controversial, not nearly as high-profile, and would have proved that he wants show some "tolerance" for same-sex couples? Signing the freaking MDMA.

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