Tolerating bigotry

Graziano case: New city housing commissioner's disparaging remarks about gays merit action.

January 04, 2001

ONE OF the problems in this society is that expressions of bigotry are too often tolerated.

Or excuses are made for those responsible.

"She's a really nice person."

"He didn't mean it."

"He was drunk."

The last, of course, is the explanation offered for the homophobic remarks made by the city's new housing commissioner, Paul T. Graziano, at a Fells Point bar last week. Mr. Graziano was arrested after patrons complained, he was asked to leave and he refused.

During his encounter with officers, he said he would call Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris. That call was not made, according to a police spokeswoman.

Mayor Martin O'Malley's response has been to defend the man, while reprimanding him for his conduct.

Mr. Graziano's remarks, Mr. O'Malley told The Sun's editorial board, were "out of character." That Mr. Graziano was "heavily intoxicated" is a "mitigating" factor, the mayor said.

We don't buy the reasoning -- or the lack of outrage in the mayor's words. The mayor needs to speak out, to reassure not only the gay and lesbian community but to calm other Baltimoreans' fears that he may be tolerant of bigotry.

Mr. O'Malley has chosen, however, to stand behind his appointee. In the view of some, that might be an admirable approach to this messy business. We're not so sure.

What does seem clear is that an opportunity has been created for Mr. Graziano. Over the opposition of his boss, he can do the right thing and resign.

There's really no other option.

He was brought in to overhaul a city department in disarray. His ability to do that job has been compromised.

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