Readers of this column have heard me gripe from time to time, and for good reason, about the fact that Virginia cleans our clocks here in Maryland when it comes to creating a good business climate.
True, they have created a more free-flowing economic and regulatory environment that allows them to basically beat us up and steal our lunch money when it comes to attracting and retaining good jobs and economic development. We can learn much from them.
However, one look at their political climate is more than enough to keep me on this side of the Potomac for good. Why? When it comes to respecting the rights of all citizens, including those who happen to be women, born in another country or with a different sexual orientation, the Commonwealth of Virginia is becoming downright hostile.
In this regard, they have a thing or two to learn from us here in the Free State.
For instance, how can a state so steeped in the tradition of our Founders, many of whom felt so strongly about the principle of equal protection under law that they fought a revolution, pass legislation allowing Virginia adoption agencies to prohibit gay and lesbian couples from adopting children? How is that equal treatment, and what business is it of theirs? I have known so many cases of children who were bounced around from foster home to foster home, or rescued from abusive, neglectful or non-existent (heterosexual) parents, and then adopted and brought up in loving, supportive, healthy, same-sex families. What an outrage to act as if these kids would have been better off without their new families, or with no family at all. What utter rubbish.
My question to these self-righteous, freedom-loving patriots in Richmond is how can this new law be seen as anything but institutionalized discrimination? They are being singled out based on the religious views of their persecutors. One would think those who believed in limited government would at least make some effort to keep their own religious convictions from becoming the basis of laws that run roughshod over other people's rights. Doesn't that sound like a bedrock conservative principle to you? It sure does to me.
I have the same issue with Virginia's back-door efforts to restrict women's access to reproductive care, not to mention their right to control their own bodies and make medical decisions for themselves. On issues like this, it's almost getting hard to tell whether the Republicans are in charge in Richmond, or the Taliban.
Marylanders will have our squabbles on these issues too. The Maryland legislature may be on the verge of extending marriage equality to all of our citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Voters will also decide this fall whether Maryland children who were brought here illegally by their (taxpaying) parents can pay the same in-state college tuition rates as other Maryland taxpayers, by voting up or down on the "Dream Act." Views will surely differ, but in both cases the debate is about expanding civil rights, educational opportunities and equal protection under law, not restricting them.
I'd rather live in a state that's looking to the future in a world where these old divisions are rapidly falling away, than in a state that is going in reverse on the key civil rights issues of our time.
After all, people don't choose to be gay, they don't choose to be women, and occasionally they don't choose to become pregnant. Discriminating against any of them by imposing a separate set of legal protections is just as wrong as it was with institutionalized racism. Maryland seems to have figured this out, or at least its leaders have.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that Virginia is too conservative for my taste. Not at all. It's that too many of its so-called "conservative" politicians are trying to have it both ways. You're either against big government, or you believe government has the right to dictate whom you can marry or who is an “acceptable” parent. You either believe in religious freedom and equal protection under law, or you want to use the power of government to impose your religious views on others. It's one or the other, folks, not both.
So if it's a choice between a state like ours, run by avowed liberals who occasionally overreach in their efforts to make a better world, as they see it, or one governed by conservative hypocrites trying to restrict the freedom of people they just don't like, I'll take Maryland any day.
Now, about that next tax increase …