maryland

Maryland Families Turn the Heart of a (Formerly) Anti-Equality Legislator

When the right wing's distorted and evil portrayal of LGBT people comes up against the reality of our lives, it's hard for the lie to stay alive.

Just ask Maryland Del. Wade Kach, a Republican who has supported a bill to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, and who even voted against the pending marriage equality bill in committee two days ago. But this morning, he announced a change of heart. The Baltimore Sun quotes from Del. Kach's statement:

My constituents sent me to Annapolis to represent them and use my best judgment. They did not send me to sit in judgment of the lives of others.

As a proud member of the party of Lincoln, I believe that we as legislators should be more concerned with relieving the tax burden of families than telling them how to behave in their own homes.

Like so many others, my thoughts on the issue of civil marriage have evolved over the course of recent months as a result of much reflection and listening to good people on both sides of this issue. Instrumental to my decision are the enhanced protections for churches, clergy, and faith leaders in my community and in communities around the state.

While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families -- who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others.

The marriage equality bill is scheduled to be debated on the House floor this evening, with a vote possibly as early as tomorrow.

PFAW

Maryland Families Turn the Heart of a (Formerly) Anti-Equality Legislator

When the right wing's distorted and evil portrayal of LGBT people comes up against the reality of our lives, it's hard for the lie to stay alive.

Just ask Maryland Del. Wade Kach, a Republican who has supported a bill to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, and who even voted against the pending marriage equality bill in committee two days ago. But this morning, he announced a change of heart. The Baltimore Sun quotes from Del. Kach's statement:

My constituents sent me to Annapolis to represent them and use my best judgment. They did not send me to sit in judgment of the lives of others.

As a proud member of the party of Lincoln, I believe that we as legislators should be more concerned with relieving the tax burden of families than telling them how to behave in their own homes.

Like so many others, my thoughts on the issue of civil marriage have evolved over the course of recent months as a result of much reflection and listening to good people on both sides of this issue. Instrumental to my decision are the enhanced protections for churches, clergy, and faith leaders in my community and in communities around the state.

While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families -- who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others.

The marriage equality bill is scheduled to be debated on the House floor this evening, with a vote possibly as early as tomorrow.

PFAW

Baltimore Sun Calls Out Ocean City Officials for Bolstering Jerry Boykin's Bigotry

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

The Baltimore Sun is insisting that the mayor and city councilmen of Ocean City, Maryland end their silence about Jerry Boykin, the keynote speaker at tomorrow’s Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, whose radical anti-Muslim views have led to an outpouring of protests. As we’ve documented on Right Wing Watch, Boykin has a long history of bigoted and preposterous rhetoric, including accusing President Obama of trying to create a personal “Brownshirt” army, calling on mosques to be banned in the US and demanding that Muslims lose their First Amendment rights. However, the mayor’s office denied that Boykin has said anything controversial “in recent appearances.”

The Sun’s editorial demands the mayor state publicly what he thinks about Boykin’s “repugnant” claims and “paranoid worldview” by “stating that religious bigotry has no place in a family resort town whose economy depends on making people of all races, religions and creeds feel welcome.” “They need to make clear whether they agree with Mr. Boykin’s views,” the Sun writes, “they need to do it immediately and they need to do it publicly”:

For 20 years, the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast in Ocean City has been a generally quiet affair. But this year the event's sponsors invited as guest speaker a former high-ranking Pentagon official notorious for his characterization of Muslims as godless idol-worshipers and terrorist fanatics. Ocean City's mayor and council members received hundreds of emails urging them to shun the event, scheduled for this morning, rather than appear to endorse such views. But they need to go further, by clearly stating that religious bigotry has no place in a family resort town whose economy depends on making people of all races, religions and creeds feel welcome.

Army Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who retired in 2007 to become a speaker on the evangelical Christian lecture circuit, is certainly no stranger to controversy. In 2003 he was reprimanded by President George W. Bush for violating numerous Army regulations after he described a 1993 battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia by saying, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." As president, Mr. Bush had taken great pains to emphasize that the U.S. was at war not with Islam, but with terrorists who had perverted its tenets. General Boykin's comment played right into the hands of enemy propagandists eager to paint America's war against terror as a war against Muslims.

General Boykin extremist views also got him into trouble when the Army discovered he was giving unauthorized speeches at evangelical church functions while serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting. Yet that didn't stop him from later suggesting that Muslims didn't deserve protection under the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause because "those following the dictates of the Koran have an obligation to destroy our constitution and replace it with Sharia law." He once even accused President Obama of setting up a "Hitler-style" militia to force socialism on America, whatever that means.

It should have been obvious to the organizers of the prayer breakfast that Mr. Boykin's appearance in Ocean City would be source of contention. Though the event has no official connection to the town and the mayor's presence there is purely ceremonial, it cannot have escaped the event's sponsors that the mere fact they had invited such a controversial figure would reflect poorly on the town. That's not only because Mr. Boykin's views are repugnant but because his high-profile presence among Ocean City's officials virtually guaranteed they would be called on to repudiate his ideas, lest they give the impression they agree with his paranoid world-view.

Make no mistake: This is not an issue of freedom of speech or of any of the constitution's protections for religious expression that Mr. Boykin seems so eager to deny to those who don't share his own Christian faith. Mr. Boykin has every right to say whatever outrageously offensive and hateful things about Muslims pop into his head, and the private organizers of an Ocean City prayer breakfast have the right to invite him to speak. Likewise, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and the town council can attend the breakfast if they so choose. What they cannot do, however, is pretend that their presence there won't reflect badly on them and the resort town they lead. They need to make clear whether they agree with Mr. Boykin's views, they need to do it immediately and they need to do it publicly.
PFAW

Pressure Increases on Ocean City Officials to Drop Boykin

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

With Jerry Boykin set to keynote the Mayor’s Prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Maryland on Thursday, pressure is increasing on city officials to drop the controversial speaker. Boykin routinely spouts extremist views, including calling for the U.S. to ban mosques and strip Muslims of their First Amendment rights. People For the American Way sent a letter to members of the city council and mayor Rick Meehan asking them to rescind Boykin’s invitation, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Auburn Theological Seminary, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and Faith in Public Life have also raised questions about Boykin’s appearance.

The mayor has so far stood by Boykin, absurdly claiming that “Boykin has not said anything controversial in his recent public appearances.” Boykin, however, recently maintained that the Council of Foreign Relations and George Soros are creating a global Marxist government. He has also claimed that President Obama is using the health care reform law to build a Marxist dictatorship with a personal “Brownshirt” army. Boykin himself bragged, “I am intolerant,” and demanded Christians “go on the offensive” against Islam.

ABC Baltimore covered the controversy surrounding Boykin last night, including Boykin’s record of religious bigotry:

The Baltimore Sun also looked into Boykin’s appearance, noting that he was reprimanded during the Bush administration for making speeches in uniform in which he claimed that the U.S. military is involved in a religious war against Islam:

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, said his group wants the mayor to refuse to attend to the event, or to force the organizer to revoke Boykin's invitation. More than 700 people have emailed Meehan and town officials since Monday through a tool on its website to protest the gathering, according to the group, which says its mission is to advocate for equality, free speech and freedom of religion.

"Ocean City works hard to maintain its reputation as a family-friendly destination open to all-comers," Keegan said in a statement. "An official endorsement of Jerry Boykin would send the wrong message about what the city stands for."

Boykin did not respond to requests for an interview. He travels the country for speaking engagements and was near Charleston, S.C., earlier this month to introduce GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown.



Boykin was rebuked by President George W. Bush in 2003 after Boykin publicly described a U.S. Army battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia in 1993, saying: "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." He also gave unauthorized speeches at evangelical church functions while serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations has said Boykin has a "long, shameful history of extreme and bigoted views."

Meehan did not respond to a request for an interview. Spokeswoman Abbott said the mayor was tied up in budget meetings Tuesday.

Meehan is hopeful that Boykin's remarks will be respectful, Abbott said.

"We have been assured that remarks made will not be divisive or inflammatory remarks," she said. "He wants to allow the speaker to have his say, and we have been given no indication that the topic will be anything but inspirational."

The breakfast's organizer, Bruce Spangler, did not return a call for comment. Spangler, however, told The Dispatch newspaper in Ocean City earlier this month that he was excited about Boykin's appearance, calling Boykin an expert on Islamic history and saying his "testimony" would be too exciting to miss.

"This country was founded on biblical values, and we are getting away from that," Spangler told The Dispatch.
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Maryland GOP Campaign Manager Found Guilty of Election Fraud

A jury verdict was reached today in one of the most notorious of the GOP dirty tricks designed to suppress the vote on Election Day 2010.

That's when Maryland Democrats received telephone calls late in the day telling them that Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley had won reelection, so they could "relax" (i.e., not vote). Prosecutors alleged this was done to suppress the African American vote, and a jury agreed. The Republican candidate's campaign manager was today found guilty of election fraud.

One of the shocking developments of the trial was the defense: When paid consultant Julius Henson (whose idea it was to make these robocalls) had presented an earlier plan explicitly designed to suppress the black vote, the campaign rejected it, so the second plan couldn't have been designed to do that. The Baltimore Sun reports one juror's dismay:

Jurors said they didn't understand the Ehrlich campaign's decision to retain Henson, even after he pitched them on a $600,000 plan to suppress black votes in July 2010.

"The first and most desired outcome is voter suppression," Henson's plan stated, saying the goal was to have "African-American voters stay home."

Instead, the Republican candidate's campaign continued to pay Henson $16,000 a month — for a total of $112,000 — and promised him a $30,000 bonus should Ehrlich win.

"Why wasn't he fired right on the spot?" asked Johnson, the juror.

Why not, indeed?

PFAW

Suppressing the African American Vote in Maryland

When a paid campaign consultant presents you with a plan designed to illegally suppress the African American vote, what is the proper response? When this happened last year to Republicans in Maryland, rather than show the consultant the door, they chose instead to continue to solicit his ideas. This came out yesterday during the trial of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich's campaign manager Paul Schurick and consultant Julius Henson for voter suppression on Election Day last year.

While the polls were still open, Maryland Democrats received telephone calls late in the day telling them that Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley had won reelection, so they could "relax" (i.e., not vote). The calls were generated and approved by operatives working for Ehrlich's campaign. His campaign manager and former high-ranking aide Paul Schurick and campaign consultant Julius Henson are on trial for seeking to suppress the African American vote. The Washington Post reports Schurick's alternative explanation for the robocalls:

The calls were a kind of reverse psychology, Schurick’s attorney said, intended to motivate Democrats inclined to cross party lines and vote for Ehrlich to head to the polls in the election’s waning hours.

...

[Schurick's attorney] said other members of Ehrlich's campaign team will attest that Schurick previously rejected a plan by Henson to suppress black voter turnout. And on Election Day, Pettit said, Schurick's approval of the robo-calls came in response to Henson's assertion that the calls would motivate a few final supporters to turn out for Ehrlich.

Even if we take Schurick at his word, his statement is damning. A paid consultant presented the Republican campaign with a plan to suppress the African American vote, which is anti-democratic to say the least. But rather than terminating their relationship with him, they simply rejected that particular idea and continued to work with him on other campaign strategies.

This is hardly an isolated incident. As the GOP nationwide works to make it harder for Americans to vote, their professions of fealty to free and fair elections are hard to take seriously.

PFAW