Include gays in county's rights code
You may recall that the former Baltimore County executive introduced legislation in the summer of 1989 which, when passed, established a county Human Relations Commission and described the categories protected from discrimination: "race, creed, religion, physical or mental handicap, color, sex, national origin, age and marital status."
Despite a strong lobbying effort, the executive and council declined to amend the bill to include sexual orientation. However, the council chairman and executive made strong statements to the effect that the county deplores discrimination of any kind. A commission was named to study the issue and make recommendations.
After a year and a half of studying reams of documents and hearing dozens of witnesses, the commission's formal report will be released after its next meeting Sept. 4. In July, the commission voted 7-to-1 to recommend that the law be amended to include sexual orientation. The Baltimore Justice Campaign has spearheaded the effort to get this recommendation to the floor of the County Council as a co-sponsored bill. We have published inch-thick notebooks and distributed them to each member of the council and the executive, replete with all the information they need to take a strong affirmative position.
Unfortunately, to date, no council member has emerged as a strong civil rights advocate. Since most of the council members are new, they are unfamiliar with this emotionally charged, controversial issue. They seem timid about "going out on a limb" for equal civil rights for gays. Even the county executive appears to be declining to take a leadership position on this issue. In addition, a homophobic fundamentalist Christian organization loftily calling itself the "American Family Association" is lobbying against the effort.
One of the most serious ramifications of failing to include sexual minorities in civil rights codes is that it silently communicates legislative ratification of hate crimes against gays and lesbians. Not protecting gays and lesbians equally under the law gives permission to discriminate and implies permission to hate. This is tacitly inferred by those who are prone to acting out this hatred as permission to attack. "Gay-bashing," including murder, is a growing problem in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Kenneth B. Morgen
The writer is a psychologist and co-chair of the Baltimore Justice 1/2 Campaign.
We like it here
However one may regard the political analysis in your editorial (Aug. 12) on the new 5th District of Baltimore city, I'm surely not the only resident who will take exception to the way you have characterized the area.
While there are surely portions of the 5th plagued by crime, deterioration and poverty (we're eagerly awaiting your editorial on the election district that does not have such sections), the implication that the "road to the good life" leads out of the city and that "those who could moved on" hardly describes such neighborhoods as Ten Hills, Rognel Heights, Howard Park, Dickeyville, Windsor Hills, Ashburton, Roland Park, Cross Keys and Homeland, as well as other perhaps less well known but with strong neighborhood organizations that make for stable communities. Unlikely as it may have appeared to your readers who do not know the area, many of us live in this district because we like it here.
Sidney Hollander Jr.
Socialism as answer
We citizens are like people in a canoe caught in a swift current, being swept downstream. The roaring sound we hear comes from the tremendous falls that are approaching.
Our society curbs the hopes of large minorities to the extent that they cannot survive except as wards of the state. We do not deal adequately with the hungry, the homeless, the people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. How can we face the turbulence which is to come?
We cannot look to the major political parties to provide action. We need a third party. In order to preserve our capitalistic system we must institute large-scale measures of a socialistic nature soon.
P. Andrew Torrez's letter (Forum, Aug. 7) concerning the moral case against capital punishment overlooked relevant scripture.
Romans 13:1-4 quite explicitly deals with the government's right to execute justice and a directive to be subject to governmental authority: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
The scriptures quoted by Mr. Torrez are out of context when dealing with the actions of government, and more appropriately apply to personal forgiveness. More important, Jesus himself did not argue against it either before or after he was executed.
One under a death sentence has the unique advantage of knowing the time of his death. He then has every opportunity to reconcile with his creator and redeemer. Failing that, the real death sentence applies.
David P. Gilmore
Killing in self-defense has never been considered immoral, or against the law. Capital punishment is simply society's way of killing in self-defense. We must be allowed to carry out death sentences and not feel guilty about it.
The federal government as a whole and the post office department in particular are running deficits, so new methods of adding revenue are desperately being sought. However, there is one potential source of revenue that has been overlooked. I refer to the statement printed on the left side of all official federal government mailings: "Official Business, Penalty for Private Use $300."
It is my perception that the amount of this penalty has not changed since the days when a three-cent stamp was sufficient postage for sending a letter. Since the charge for letter postage has now climbed to 29 cents and soon will be 30 cents, I would suggest that the penalty be raised proportionately to $3,000. By increasing the penalty we are allowing for past inflation, while doing no harm to honest people. I don't know if this penalty is enforced very often, if at all, but some potential offenders might be scared off by the higher amount, thus raising postage revenue.