Lobby Day arrived in Maryland on the 22nd of February. It's fitting this blog is posted two weeks late. The Blizzard of 2010 postponed the annual advocacy by 14 days. But on this lobby day of days, neither sleet nor snow, nor a steady rain during festivities could keep advocates from their appointed legislative rounds.
Delegate Ron George is one of 3 congresspersons representing my district and the lone Republican. He's a businessman and jeweler by trade. His college degree is acting--visual and performing arts. Skills he noted with a chuckle he's plied since his election to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2007.
Little did our group know we were about to be entertained by a most unbelievable, one-man show.
Let the Sideshow Begin
Delegate George ushered about a dozen of his constituents (myself included) into a well-appointed conference room worthy of foreign dignitaries. In a way we were just that.
We were there to discuss Equality Maryland's progressive agenda for the 2010 General Assembly. His jovial greetings were well received, fairly unexpected from a conservative politician about to be scrutinized by 24 cynical eyes.
But this is 2010, a new year and just maybe a new attitude for Delegate George. Resolution for change energized the air. The stage was set with the promise of positive dialogue.
From the outset the Delegate made it clear he wished to set the record straight.
He claimed solidarity with the gay and lesbian cause, noting he, too, grew up a bit different, disenfranchised as a highly sensitive child.
He felt our pain. Then he continued on.
Equality Maryland's agenda for 2010 promotes several initiatives. The two receiving top billing are the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act and anti-discrimination workplace protections for gender identity.
Can I Get a Witness?
We quickly launched into our Civil Marriage platform after a pause in the Delegate's soliloquy. We were here for a singular purpose: to determine the delegate's political position.
But our foray into Civil Marriage equality neither upstaged nor deterred Delegate George's show-stopping performance.
He continued an oratory of LGBT empathy uninterrupted, announcing he would neither condone gang activity nor hate violence in our schools. He underscored the need for educational reform to protect gay children.
How quickly our agenda veered off topic.
Nods of audience agreement met more than a few quizzical looks. A second request shortly followed for the Delegate to clarify his position on civil marriage, our collective impatience was palatable.
If Delegate George understands anything, it's the importance of timing. He took the question without further adieu, quick to underscore his belief in the merit of civil unions.
A pregnant pause, deaf silence, blank stares.
You're 1,100 Miles Away
A constituent observed that civil unions do not equate to civil marriage in a court of law. Not an insignificant argument with more than 1,100 matrimonial rights and benefits at stake predicated on the designation of a single word.
The Delegate mulled this point warily, empathy pains etched in bold, deep lines in his forehead, a theatrical pause added for dramatic effect. Like all good actors Delegate George needed but a momentary pause to regain character.
And with heavy heart he broke the news, the facts of marriage from the enlightened perspective of clinical psychology. Delegate George concluded the same-sex brain has yet to prove worthy of the special status of marriage. Amazing.
I wanted to vocalize something, anything, my incredulous reaction, "Say What?!" Instead I was rendered incapable of speech as were my dumbstruck compatriots.
We were mired deep, very deep, in the mind-numbing goo of political gobbledygook. It was surreal--a paralyzing feeling that our logic receptors had somehow been secretly stolen, diffused or otherwise deadened.
Delegate George required immutable proof; proof positive of the complementary nature of the "gay brain"--complementary as, oh, say, the male and female brain.
Class assignment: Present incontrovertible evidence and perhaps
Professor Delegate George would indulge the merits of same-sex marriage equality.
Like I said, mind-numbing.
Help Wanted: Clinical Psychologist. No Experience Necessary.
Yet a fearless soul from our advocacy group persevered with just such proof. I later learned he was an accredited psychopharmacologist.
Not so fast psycho-babs.
Delegate George at once revealed another facet of his impressively credentialed, carefully choreographed background. He himself holds a master's degree in clinical psychology, albeit from an obscure Northern Virginia school with - drum roll please - a religious affiliation, but no APA accreditation.
(Note to self: There was no mention of professional mental health care experience correlating to this "advanced degree" anywhere in his bio.)
The Delegate's knowledge of the truth stood as irrefutable fact.
In that defining moment of suspended reality, I have no doubt the good Delegate saw himself as a beacon, a guiding light for the LBGT wayward.
I'm also quite sure Delegate George will never really see the light.
I'm not sure how, but I managed to shake my slumbering mind, just long enough to feign ignorance, asking Delegate George to rephrase his position against civil marriage equality in lay terms.
Words the uninitiated like myself might grasp - or dare I say, comprehend.
The Scorecard on Equality Speaks
I asked him to comment on his anti-LGBT civil rights score card. He'd received zero points from Equality Maryland for his failure to support any of six pro-LGBT bills in 2009. His smile turned blank, replaced by the facsimile of a stare.
His mouth tried, but words failed to form. And in that uncomfortable moment, that painfully pregnant pause which seldom delivers, divine intervention saved the day - along with a little help from his friend. A secretary entered the conference room, right on cue, insisting the Delegate's highly educated presence was required elsewhere.
Uncorked from his chair like a pop tart from a fickle toaster, Delegate George hastened an apology, thanked us for our time and beat a retreat. Not another meaningful word was spoken.
Delegate George said more than enough in his 30 minutes. He told us all we needed to know. We learned what his brand of "representative democracy" is all about.
They call it social conservatism. I call it prejudice.
Thankfully his secretary saved the day.
She saved him from himself, if only for a day. Delegate George will most certainly hear from us again. We'll come calling again - this November on Election Day.