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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Gay rights ruling comes just in time

In his column "Hasty decision may be setback for gay marriage" (Commentary, May 20), Steve Chapman suggests that the California Supreme Court somehow acted prematurely in its decision finding that the state can no longer bar committed same-sex couples from civil marriage.

It might be worth noting, however, that the California legislature has twice passed bills that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

Both times, these bills were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he was waiting for the courts to decide if civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples was permitted under the state constitution.

Now that the court has spoken, the governor has made it clear that he supports the ruling and opposes efforts to undo the decision through a constitutional amendment.

The California decision wasn't ahead of its time.

It was just in time to end the unfairness that lesbian and gay Californians face when they are barred from the legal protections and dignity that come only through civil marriage.

Susan Goering, Baltimore

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

Good jobs the key to city's revival

In a city in which one in five people lives in poverty, even though it is in the wealthiest state in America, plans to improve life in Baltimore must start with creating good-paying jobs ("Baltimore needs help - not reinvention," Commentary, May 19).

When men and women are working two and three jobs and still not making ends meet, something is terribly wrong in Baltimore.

Better wages not only are what these working families need to get by but also would help struggling communities by providing a much-needed boost to neighborhood stores, shops and local businesses.

It's our government's responsibility - and it's in the best interest of business - to make Baltimore's jobs pay Baltimore's families what they need and deserve.

Jaime Contreras, Washington

The writer is capital-area director for the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.

Help is on the way for state's new vets

It was apparent from The Sun's recent article "VA official regrets 'shh' on suicide" (May 7) that we need to do better to meet the mental health needs of young men and women returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder and, worse, contemplate suicide as they try to reacclimate to civilian life after experiencing the traumas of war.

As we approach Memorial Day, Gov. Martin O'Malley has signed legislation to improve services for veterans. This is a fitting tribute to the men and women who protect us. The Maryland Veterans Behavioral Health program will establish service coordination among the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland Defense Force for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. Under this program, DHMH will serve to bridge behavioral health services until each veteran can link to services within the VA system.

Our veterans deserve the best we can offer when it comes to their health care. In Maryland, we have embraced them, tending to the behavioral health problems of our veterans, and we are committed to getting all veterans the help they may need.

Anthony G. Brown, Annapolis

The writer is the lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Stealing resources to aid our farmers

Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize farmers or anyone else ("House rejects farm bill veto," May 22).

The idea that one person's needs are a moral claim on the assets of others has been used to justify countless redistribution schemes, from farm subsidies to welfare handouts to foreign aid.

But this idea is unjust. Individuals have a moral right to what they earn - not to what others earn.

Taxing one person to transfer his or her wealth to others is a violation of that person's rights and, like any redistribution scheme, is not a legitimate government function.

The government should protect our property from those who would steal it - not steal it from us and give it to those who did not earn it.

David Holcberg, Irvine, Calif.

The writer is a policy analyst for the Ayn Rand Institute.

'Soft power' only enrages enemies

Based on Sen. Barack Obama's vitriolic response to President Bush's recent speech to the Israeli Knesset, I have been concerned that his foreign policy would be based on appeasing Iran and other sponsors of terror.

Now comes a clarification from Thomas F. Schaller ("U.S. needs 'soft power' leader, and he could be our man," Commentary, May 21) that only increases my worry that, under a "soft power" President Obama, our country would sink into the kind of powerfully soft muck of naivete and delusion that infected Europe in 1938.

As Mr. Schaller suggests, Mr. Obama's foreign policy would emphasize values such as "dignity promotion," "moral, notional and cultural exports" and persuasion based on "values, products and identity."

But it is our export of just such values that inflames our enemies, who, driven by a fanatical interpretation of Islam, want those values - and the countries and people behind them - erased from the planet.

I'm afraid that neither Mr. Schaller nor Mr. Obama realizes that we can't win the global war in which we are engaged by following their alluringly soft path.

Nelson L. Hyman, Randallstown

Tactless remarks undermine message

Like the Saudis and Brazilians Thomas F. Schaller mentions, I am fascinated that America "could elect a black man with the middle name Hussein" as president ("U.S. needs 'soft power' leader, and he could be our man," Commentary, May 21).

However, Sen. Barack Obama is not a concept or cutout but an actual human being. And he has demonstrated many foibles.

While claiming he can bring divergent groups together, he has developed a habit of insulting people (e.g., his statements about "bitter" small-town residents and a "typical white person").

This does not bode well for him winning the election in November or governing successfully if he wins.

How can a President Obama change the way Washington works or the behavior of countries just by talking to their leaders if he and his staff have to keep explaining or excusing his tactless remarks?

Jerry Levin, Baltimore

Better exemplars of 'soft power' path

While I agree entirely with Thomas F. Schaller that the U.S. needs a "soft power" leader after the belligerent, bullying years of President Bush, I would have used better examples of "soft power" than the behavior of greasy fast-food chains ("U.S. needs 'soft power' leader, and he could be our man," Commentary, May 21).

Two perfect examples come to mind from inspirational books that have been recently issued about the dedication and deeds of heroic men.

First, I think that the example set by Greg Mortenson in his book Three Cups of Tea is an excellent way for the United States to achieve a state of grace in the world.

Mr. Mortenson's crusade to educate children in remote villages in Pakistan by building schools and friendships is a far better way to achieve peace in the world than Mr. Bush's approach.

Second is the exhilarating work in healing and social justice that Dr. Paul F. Farmer accomplished through the organization that he founded, Partners in Health, which is documented by Tracy Kidder in her book Mountains Beyond Mountains.

That organization is dedicated to redressing the inequitable distribution of health care throughout the world.

Both of these projects are examples of the "soft paths" that need to be adopted by the next administration and replicated throughout the world to begin to overcome the deplorable state of America's reputation.

Ajax Eastman, Baltimore

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