Yesterday, Maryland's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony for and against a bill that would legally recognize marriages between people of the same gender. Among the highlights of the unusually lively session: the state's top elected official dropped by to throw his support behind the bill. (Only fitting as he is its author.)
Prior to the hearings, Governor Martin O'Malley's wife was heard describing potential opponents of the bill as "cowards." At the hearings, one lawmaker referenced the remarks and asked the Governor his opinion of them. The legislator seemed to want to go on record condemning the remarks--and to harass O'Malley to do the same.
When pressed, the Governor deflected the matter and reminded the committee that everyone in America has a right to their opinion. It was a predictable move that made for mildly interesting political theatre. But what if, instead, the Governor of Maryland had chosen to take the system that perpetuates and emphasizes the chattering classes to task? What if he had said something like this:
"Can I speak frankly?A response like that has two potential outcomes:
I think that kind of question—and the kinds of unfortunate comments you’re referring to—are an absurd distraction that none of us should entertain.
We’re public figures. People will call us names and criticize us in all kinds of harsh manners. We’ll also have microphones thrust in our faces—not to mention camera phones and social media and whatnot—to record and broadcast comments we really wish we could take back. The important question we all have to answer is this: are we the state legislature or are we in the sixth grade?
We’ve been elected to lead. And leaders should be capable of ignoring silly remarks—like the one made by my wife—so they can focus on the work they’ve been elected to do. Today, that work is about ending discrimination.
I certainly understand that people have a wide range of views about homosexuality. People are free to believe whatever they want in this country, but what this country doesn’t allow for is discrimination. It’s not supposed to. Yet it has. And it’s still doing so by not recognizing every person’s right to choose their spouse and to construct a loving, nurturing family.
I am sorry if any person here—or elsewhere in the state of Maryland--was offended by what my wife said. I am more sorry that we’re all not grown up enough to focus on the conversation that matters—the one where we work together to end discrimination in our state and make sure every citizen is able to enjoy the freedoms extended to us by our Constitution."
1) Set a great example for how a leader squashes the trivial he said/she said sidebars that tend to dominate the public discourse;
2) Make the other side even madder and stretch the life of the he said/she said nonsense.
On one hand, I wish O'Malley had been so bold. On the other, I'm glad he didn't. I just don't trust that any of us have made it past the sixth grade.