Give the ACLU credit for backing rights,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Give the ACLU credit for backing rights, when popular and not

The ACLU does much more than represent unpopular causes. Yet a reader of The Sun's editorial page could well get the impression that's all we do.

For example, while we were featured in your editorial "A road best not traveled" (March 10), nary a mention was made of the American Civil Liberties Union in your piece lauding our landmark pro-family case vindicating the right of a state trooper under the Family and Medical Leave Act to stay home with his newborn infant ("Wrongful retaliation," Feb. 27).

The ACLU filed that case and spent years litigating it to the verdict praised by The Sun.

We have a docket of more than 50 cases representing thousands of clients who are just as sympathetic as our state trooper. Our clients range from a blind voter denied his right to a secret ballot to young schoolchildren denied the right to an education to African-American motorists stopped for "driving while black."

The ACLU ought to get credit where credit is due. While we are not at all shy about defending the free speech rights of unpopular groups when Maryland's state and local governments put the Constitution to that test, editorials that are not evenhanded about a high-profile organization such as the ACLU do us and the public a disservice.

Susan Goering Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Kashmiri are key part of India-Pakistan pact

Your story "India, Pakistan slow nuclear race" (Feb. 22) regarding the summit between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart, A. B. Vajpayee, requires amplification concerning their efforts to resolve the 51-year-old Kashmir conflict.

The Kashmir dispute, it is too readily forgotten, centers on the self-determination cause of the Kashmiri people, not on the historical rivalry between India and Pakistan. To leave the Kashmiris voiceless in charting their freedom and sovereign destiny is to ensure that nothing productive will be accomplished.

Moreover, the dispute involves three parties -- India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, who are the most directly affected. Any attempt to strike a deal between two without the association of the third will fail to yield a credible settlement. The contemporary history of South Asia is abundantly clear that bilateral efforts have never met with success.

Any peace plan for Kashmir without the concurrence of the Kashmiri leaders would be chimerical, like performing the play "Hamlet" without the Prince of Denmark.

Ghulam Nabi Fai Washington

The writer is executive director of the Kashmiri American Council.

Hate crime laws needed in nation

I am writing in response to the article "2 men confess to fatal bludgeoning of gay Alabama man over sexual advance" (March 5).

Sadly, the killers attempted to justify their heinous crime by appealing to the all-too-common belief that it is OK to react to an unwanted sexual advance with violence when the advance is made by a person of the same sex.

This tragedy emphasizes the need for strong hate-crime laws to protect sexual minorities from acts of terrorism. Hate crimes need to be considered separately because they are not simple attacks on individuals. They are intended to harass and deny traditional American freedoms to a targeted community.

I hope that legislators in Alabama, Maryland and other states will respond to the deaths of Billy Jack Gaither and Matthew Shepard by enacting strong hate-crimes laws to help make the streets safe for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people and other sexual minorities.

Bernadette Wright Baltimore

Powerful leaders aid hate crimes

When the racist John King tortured and murdered an innocent African-American in Texas and when some sick homophobes tortured and murdered a young gay, they had an ally in the U.S. Senate.

The ally was Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. He plays footsie with white supremacist groups, knowing full well what their odious agenda is, and makes homophobic remarks with impunity.

Shame on his 99 colleagues for not taking this man to task for this. Most Americans have no voice and no power; they are deluded into thinking that they do when they are given a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee on Election Day.

Senators, representatives and the president have the most powerful voices, and when they refuse to condemn racist remarks emanating from the most powerful, they contribute in some measure to the hate crimes and traduce the nation.

Gerald Ben Shargel Reisterstown

A suggestion to resolve Wagner's Point dispute

Regarding the dispute over how to fairly pay the residents of Wagner's Point for the buyout of their homes, I believe I have a very simple solution: The city should pay the homeowners the value of their homes as established in the most recent property tax assessments.

Clearly the city is satisfied with this figure -- that is what they have based their demands for property tax payment on.

Joseph LaMastra Baltimore

DiMaggio was a Yankee even O's fans could cheer

In Maryland, there's little interest in the New York Yankees beyond the desire of most Orioles fans to hate them. Just as there was a momentary pause in the anti-Yankee fervor when Mickey Mantle died, so too should there be with the passing of Joe DiMaggio.

Growing up in metro New York in the 1970s and 1980s, I followed the Yankee teams. When the squad was playing poorly, the old-timers' games, public appearances and stories of Yankees teams of old more than passed the time until the next great team arose.

When the Yankees were rolling, inevitable comparisons to the dominant teams of the 1940s and 1950s made their success that much more enjoyable to contemplate.

For every wild Babe Ruth story there is a Lou Gehrig story of civility; for every Mickey Mantle drinking binge, there is an image of DiMaggio doing his share to support the Allied war effort.

DiMaggio's grace on the field was surpassed only by that which he displayed in public, and his loss is a loss for all baseball fans, regardless of rooting interest.

Tom Flynn Ellicott City

State employee problem bigger than agency fee

Most of the ink on the collective bargaining and pay plan legislation for state employees has been spent on the struggle between unions and the possibility of a small agency fee. The bigger issue is that Maryland lags behind 47 states in what it pays its workers.

I applied for a federal job in Baltimore with the same title and duties I have with the state. The federal pay scale began where the state's ended. That's not to mention comparisons to pay scales in the private sector.

The state cannot retain good workers with less pay and no one looking out for the employee. Most state workers get nowhere near the generous retirement plans of our government executives, and we can expect something like $10,000 a year in pension benefits if we can afford to stay that long.

The trend toward using contract, part-time and temporary workers reduces or eliminates sizable chunks of the work force, eroding the quality of life for many citizens, just so someone can say the government is smaller.

D. J. Lilly Baltimore

Names of winning schools missing from newspaper

My students and I noticed something missing amid the hoopla of the March 8 Read Across America" coverage. What we missed was the list of the schools whose students won a trip to Port Discovery with the Seuss-like stories and poems they entered in the Reading by 9 reading-writing contest.

The trip to Port Discovery was memorable. An article including their school would have been something for my students to be proud of for a lifetime.

MaryLynn Swartz Baltimore

The writer is a third-grade teacher at Woodhome Elementary/Middle School.

Pub Date: 3/16/99

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