Gay student's death illustrates the need for federal hate...

Letters to the Editor

October 17, 1998

Gay student's death illustrates the need for federal hate law

The brutal and untimely death of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard for the apparent capital crime of flirting with another man in a bar illustrates the need for federal hate crimes legislation.

The father of one of the accused assailants insists that the murder was "not a hate crime" -- that the intent was to rob the victim. This claim is difficult to believe. It hardly needs mentioning that simple robberies do not occasion the kind of vicious and ultimately fatal beating that Mr. Shepard received.

A climate in which it is legally permissible to discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is a climate in which people such as Mr. Shepard's attackers feel justified in perpetrating violence against us, secure in the knowledge that it will cost them only a slap on the wrist.

To the memory of Mr. Shepard, we owe long prison sentences for his murderers. To those living, we owe federal hate crimes legislation that includes protection for sexual minorities. Freedom from homophobic violence does not constitute special rights.

Janet Goldstein

Baltimore

Maryland's worst polluters don't deserve exemptions

On more than one in four days from April to September, the air has been unsafe to breathe because of air pollution in Maryland -- seventh worst in the nation.

These unsafe levels of ozone air pollution place Maryland residents at risk for loss of lung function, increased emergency room visits and increased susceptibility to infection. Going outside to work, exercise or play can damage lungs, and for the 580,000 people in our state with chronic lung disease, including 87,000 children with asthma, air pollution can be deadly.

We need to cut pollution from the two biggest sources: dirty power plants and cars. A "lethal loophole" in the Clean Air Act exempts 10 of Maryland's oldest and dirtiest power plants from modern clean air standards. One of these is Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s Gould Street plant, located on the Patapsco River.

Last year, this plant released 153 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide and 445 tons of sulfur dioxide, which forms fine particulate air pollution. Exempting this dinosaur power plant from modern standards is like giving the fastest sports car immunity from speeding laws.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently passed a rule to help clean up old power plants and reduce smog in the eastern United States.

However, industry lobbyists are pressuring the Clinton administration to weaken EPA's anti-smog safeguards.

The time has come for the administration to demonstrate its commitment to public health by strengthening anti-smog rules, instead of listening to the industry polluters.

Lea Johnston

Baltimore

The writer is a Maryland Public Interest Research Group environmental advocate.

Not all House Republicans voted conscience on inquiry

The recent vote by the House of Representatives on whether to hold an impeachment hearing clearly depicts the pitiful state of our judicial system. The House, in effect, was sitting as a jury. To call this a bi-partisan vote, because 31 (15 percent) of Democrats did not vote along party lines, is a farce.

Surely, at least one of the 227 Republicans believed that a hearing was not called for but did not vote his or her conscience.

In some serious cases, even when the evidence is overwhelming, a jury of twelve has difficulty in agreeing unanimously. In this instance, we have a group of 227 voting unamimously. Pitiful.

Joseph E. Siegmund, Jr.

Baltimore

All races in Bolton Hill share community concerns

On behalf of African Americans who are not wealthy, I am insulted by your article about Chang's Mart ("Two cultures clash around tiny store," Oct 1). You imply that only wealthy white people care about their homes and try to prevent the selling of alcohol to their children. You imply that those people who do care are racist.

You call the problem of Chang's Mart a cultural clash when it is an issue of right and wrong. Do you believe that we should disregard liquor stores that sell to minors? I don't. That would be the same as disregarding speeding offenses -- until you attend the funeral of someone who is killed by a speeding car.

In addition, your article omits many examples of cultural and racial harmony in Bolton Hill. I am one of the Reservoir Hill residents who sends our children to the Midtown Academy, a school in Bolton Hill whose success is the result of bringing together people of diverse racial, cultural and economic backgrounds.

Gayle L. Utley

Baltimore

Phonics, whole language debate is not a horse race

I have not been following the Reading by 9 coverage in The Sun; however I did read Mike Bowler's column ("Way too early to give up on reading plan," Oct. 11).

I then read Bess Altwerger's piece from the previous day. Frankly, Professor Altwerger seemed to be taking a reasonable tone consistent with the National Research Council's report on the whole language and phonics issue.

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