"What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"

Senator Ted Kennedy is a bit upset by Senate Republicans blocking the "clean" minimum wage bill. Republicans blocking this should really be ashamed of themselves.

Lack of Same-Sex Partner Benefits = Financial Disaster

Somewhere, there is a ski lodge that this past weekend lost two customers.

Ordinarily, Robin Hurni and Jeanne Williams would have gone skiing last weekend.

The winter sport is one that the Denton, Md., couple once enjoyed. But because Hurni’s new employer won’t cover Williams’ health care costs, the skis were stowed.

“We’ve held back on doing activities because of the lack of health insurance,” Hurni said. “If she got hurt, what would we do?”

While I am sure the unnamed ski lodge will survive, the situation that Robin Hurni and Jeanne Williams is more serious. Because Hurni's employer does not provide health insurance for her partner (a benefit guaranteed to heterosexual couples), they are in a constant state of emergency.

Hurni, a sonographer, said her job options are limited. And after taking $3,000 out of savings to buy health insurance for Williams last year, additional expenses are not feasible.

The couple is now earnestly searching for a remedy — and hoping that Williams stays healthy in the meantime.

“It’s a precarious position,” Hurni said. “We stand to lose the house if we don’t have benefits and something happens.”

Now, if they were a heterosexual couple, the solution would be simple. Marriage would force Hurni's employer to cover Williams and the couple would continue to be productive citizens, unburdened by insane health care prices.

However, because they are lesbians, they have no recourse. A medical emergency for Williams would incur a financial disaster much greater than missing out on two customers on a popular ski weekend.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no simple way other than marriage to guarantee family rights. Equality Maryland states:

“Marriage Inequality in the State of Maryland” documents that without the ability to secure a marriage license, same-sex couples have no automatic legal right to:

- Take Family and Medical leave to care for a sick partner
- Ride in an ambulance with a partner
- Visit a partner in a nursing home or hospital
- Receive Social Security benefits in the event of the death of a partner
- Sponsor a foreign-born partner to stay in the country
- Inherit jointly owned property without incurring crippling tax penalties
- Roll a partner’s pension into their own
- Make burial decisions
- Have the security of continued insurance coverage after the death of a spouse
- Take advantage of social services provided to help families cope with catastrophe, poverty, homelessness, or abandonment
Add to that list that without marriage, employers are not required to provide benefits such as health insurance to partners, even when they already provide these benefits for heterosexual spouses.

Anything less than legal same-sex marriage is insufficient. Lets hope the court of appeals does the right thing.

"I would like to see us repeal the death penalty," - Governor O'Malley

Now it is just up to the Maryland legislature to pass one of the repeal bills. I must say, I am very proud of the Governor for taking this stand. I believe that it says something about his philosophy of justice, that it is focused on saving lives and improving communities, not on revenge and retaliation.

Some on the other side of the debate share a different philosophy.
Michael Paranzino, executive director of Throw Away the Key, which supports capital punishment, said a debate on the death penalty is needed.
"It's better to debate this in the open," he said. "We will be educating the lawmakers about the victims of murder. While I think that it's a difficult task, I don't think it's impossible."
Throw Away the Key's website deals almost exclusively with child predators. They make a solid argument for the reform of how we deal with child predators that I am inclined to agree with. They are wrong however, on the necessity death penalty. We need look no further than the case of Kirk Bloodsworth:
Mr. Bloodsworth was convicted twice of killing a 9-year-old girl in 1984. He was placed on death row following his first trial. Mr. Bloodsworth was convicted again in a second trial, but received a life sentence instead of capital punishment. He was exonerated by DNA evidence in 1993.
While Mr. Bloodsworth sat in jail facing death, the real offender was roaming the streets free to harm more innocent people. It was neither a deterrent for other criminals nor a panacea for the family. Justice was certainly not done, and thankfully Mr. Bloodsworth lived to tell about it.

Throw away the key laments the quick release of child predators and violent offenders from our prisons. However, they never address the real cause of this problem, overcrowded prisons due to the drug war. Instead they would rather focus on easy, headline grabbing issues such as the death penalty. It is a shame, because they could be a strong advocate for changing our justice system so it can begin locking up real criminals again.

So, will the repeal bills pass? O'Malley is skeptical:
O'Malley said he would lobby for the repeal bills, although he did not include such a measure in the legislative agenda he released this week. "There are good people who have strong feelings on both sides of that issue," he said.

Still, he expressed skepticism that a majority of the House of Delegates or the Senate will support the bills.

"I'm not overly optimistic that they will, but there's a lot of new members, and perhaps given the problems, what went on in Florida, given all of the other issues having to do with the way that it's applied, maybe there is the will to do it," the governor said. Executions in Florida were halted last month amid concerns over the way lethal injections were administered.
I hope the Maryland Legislature does the right thing and gets one of these bill passed.
You can contact them and tell them how you feel.


In the News: 1/25/07

While Ben Cardin has been doing his thing in the Senate, Michael Steele has returned to a job that he knows well, running a political organization. Steele has been named head of GOPAC. GOPAC trains Republican activists and recruits candidates around the country. I hope the training doesn't include any of Mr. Steele's recent election antics.

Personally, I think this is a stupid move for GOPAC and for the national GOP as a whole. Though I find his politics reprehensible, Mr. Steele is one of the most interesting and dare I say vibrant Republicans in the country. As a Democrat, I am glad to have Steele heading up GOPAC, seeing as he has proven his inability to win elections, particularly at the grassroots level. I must assume that he couldn't even round up enough volunteers in Baltimore to hand out his literature on election day.

If Republicans were smart, they would call up Mr. Murdoch and get Steele a pundit job at Fox news where he can do what he does best, which is to be a pretty face and a slick voice for the GOP.


Through inaction, Maryland lawmakers can put lethal injections and the death penalty on hold indefinitely. That is not enough for Delegate Samuel Rosenberg and Senator Lisa Gladden, who both introduced legislation this Tuesday that would abolish capital punishment in the state.

Good for them.

The unemployment in rate in Maryland has dropped to an amazing 3.8%. This is good news, but simply having a job doesn't always translate into having the buying power to make the big moves in life. By big moves, I mean things such as buying a home, paying off school loans, and starting a family. I still have all of these things ahead of me, and to be honest, they are completely out of reach, despite having what I consider a "good job".

This brings me to an recent Sun article on affordable housing. This bit in particular depressed the hell out of me:
In the Baltimore metro area, the annual income needed to purchase a median-priced home of $275,000 (based on third-quarter data) was $94,206, according to the study -- well above the $60,000 that is the going rate for registered nurses, and slightly less than the $50,000 that is the prevailing wage for experienced elementary school teachers and police officers. (The study assumed one-income households. With two-income households, the gap is less daunting, but that's another story.)

Yet the key phrase here is "metro area." With a median sales price of about $170,000, homes in the city are in reach to those workers, though not to lower-paid workers such as nursing aides and housekeepers.
Ouch. Lets just say my salary falls far below the lowest amount mentioned above. Even with houses in Baltimore being generally lower priced than around the state, I feel that I will remain a perpetual renter.

Realtors are making the argument that the City Council shouldn't intervene, because the issue is regional, not city based. I am inclined to agree. If affordable housing is not being created all over the state, it would be unfair to basically force those who want affordable housing to live in the city. Many issues arise here, including school and neighborhood quality. Low income families should have at least and opportunity to compete for affordable housing in the suburbs around the state.

So I think the City Council should still consider raising the affordable unit requirement to 20%, as one proposal has suggested. However, Governor O'Malley and the State legislature, as well as county governments need to step up as well. Maryland is made stronger by our economic diversity. We cannot risk losing such diversity by forcing out our low income population. Heck, as a person who considers himself middle class, I am worried about being squeezed out too. The state needs to work together to change the affordable housing situation.


Senator Cardin: Say it Ain't So

Today, Senator Ben Cardin had a chance to green light legislation that would prevent the troop surge in Iraq. Today, Senator Cardin failed to do what was necessary.

Ben Cardin chose to join with several other Democrats (and many Republicans) to kill Senator Dodd's "troop cap" amendment in committee. In doing so, Ben Cardin has stepped out of line with his constituents, we need to let him know immediately.

I was a vocal Mfume supporter in the Democratic Senate primary because I feared situations such as this. This is the exact sort of vote where we needed a progressive advocate. Its too bad we had timid Cardin. Senator Cardin's vote is even more painful after reading his remarks to president last night:
Tonight, the President failed to make a compelling argument for escalating troop levels in Iraq. We need a change in our policies both in Iraq and at home. I’m hopeful that the President will work constructively with Congress and hear the concerns of the American people so we can come together and move forward as a nation.
Sir, you had the chance to change that policy today, and you chose not to.

Now, perhaps Ben is reserving his support for a different proposal (there are many). However, his no vote on the Dodd amendment is disturbing, to say the least. I implore all who read this blog to contact Senator Cardin and tell him that he needs to get his act together and support legislation that has the teeth to stop this surge and ultimately to end this war in Iraq.


Donna Edwards is on the board of "They Work for Us"

Local progressive turned netroots hero, Donna Edwards is on the board of a cool new organization called They Work for Us.

Al Wynn and his ilk should be put on notice, Donna Edwards and real Democrats are not finished with you yet.


Andy Griffith on Due Process

Hat tip to Tom Tommorrow. As the Bush administration decides to try Guantanamo detainees using hearsay and coerced testimony, we would all do well to listen to Andy Griffith: