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09/02/2010

Someday, putting gays' basic rights to ballot will be an editorial dealbreaker. Today's not the day

by Jeremy Hooper

It's just a week and change away From D.C.'s 9/14 primaries, so the Washington Post has rolled out some more endorsements. Including this one:

In Ward 5, first-term council member Harry Thomas Jr. is facing challenges from Kenyan McDuffie, Delano Hunter and Tracey D. Turner. With the notable exception of the courage he showed in voting for marriage equality, Mr. Thomas has been a major disappointment. He pretty much defined his role as trying to stop anything -- no matter how sensible -- sought by the mayor. He led the effort to prevent school facilities chief Allen Y. Lew from overseeing park projects and has been the union's main champion in trying to thwart needed reforms in the schools and government workforce. Particularly distasteful was how he allowed racial demagoguery to derail the nomination of Ximena Hartsock as parks director.

Both Mr. Hunter, a community organizer with Brookland Manor, and Mr. McDuffie, a lawyer who worked in the Justice Department civil rights division, are better alternatives. We give the edge to Mr. Hunter, an engaging newcomer who is running a grass-roots campaign. He has an intimate knowledge of the needs of the ward and has smart ideas on how to tackle issues such as truancy and joblessness. Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality, but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be, but rather someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups. He said he would not seek to change the law.

D.C. Council endorsements [WaPo]

You all remember Delano Hunter, right? Ya know, he's the guy who the National Organization for Marriage is proudly featuring in these crude mailers:

Delano Hunter
[SEE FULL SIZE: Joe.My.God]

Oh, and not the mailer: Hunter was also at NOM's recent Summer Marriage Tour stop in D.C., as a show of support for an event where "let the people vote" was the rally cry of the day. Because "our values," in NOM speak, means a D.C. where every citizen gets a chance to utilize that whole "speak now or forever hold your peace" ceremonial line against any gay person's marital union, invited quest or not (although we really don't see peace-holding in the cards, even if they should lose such a vote).

So no, sorry WaPo. Failing to support marriage equality and acting as "the people" are owed a right to vote on civil rights may not be deal breakers for your editorial board's prevailing voices. And earning NOM's backing might strike you as just another political point. However, these are matters that go well beyond matrimony, stretching firmly into the realms of constitutional fairness, respect for minority populations, principles in the face of politics, and just plain human respect! Whether or not Mr. Hunter fits into a contrived "homophobe" box is not the issue here. But as for whether or not he understands that we all share this country and its set of civil laws, and that those same laws should not be rolled back by (typically faith-based) majority whims? Yea, well -- that's kind of a big deal.

**More from a trio of D.C. locals:

Chris Geidner: Post Endorses NOM's Nom in Ward 5 Council Race [Poliglot]
"First, the Post ed board has steadily supported marriage equality in the past. That's why it makes no sense to laud Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. for courage in voting for the marriage bill, then go on to laud Hunter for being "someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups."
Adam Bink: Muddying the waters on equality [Open Left]
"Now, it may not matter to the Washington Post who Hunter chooses to pal around with, but it does to the LGBT community. NOM has chosen Hunter to be its shining example of how to defeat pro-marriage incumbents."
Joe Sudbay: Wash. Post endorsed NOM-backed candidate for City Council [AmericaBlog]

**CONTACT: letters@washpost.com

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