- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — House lawmakers approval to a bill yesterday to rename Baltimore-Washington International Airport after the late Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bill passed by a 104-25 vote and would rename the facility the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“I had hoped that the vote would have been unanimous,” said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat who sponsored the bill. “But I have a very good majority, a solid majority. And I can go to the Senate with that majority.”

He acknowledged that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. will have some “questions and concerns” about the bill but was confident about its success.

“It is going to be very difficult to vote against Thurgood Marshall,” Mr. Burns said. “If it were Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse, then we would be talking about something different. But we are talking about a giant who is unparalleled in the history of this country.”

Mr. Miller, a Calvert and Prince George’s Democrat, said yesterday the idea of changing the airport’s name should be carefully considered.

“Thurgood Marshall is one of the heroes of our time,” he said. “But we need to make certain [the change] does not affect the marketing of this huge industrial hub of the state.”

Justice Marshall, a Baltimore native, died in 1993 at age 84.

His legal career included his arguing the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court in 1954. The court’s ruling outlawed segregation in public schools.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said last week he would consider the bill.

Delegate John R. Leopold, an Anne Arundel Republican, was among the lawmakers who yesterday voted against the bill, saying the change would cost as much as $2 million.

Mr. Burns said such a change would cost the state as little as $250,000 because not every sign needs to be replaced. He also said the change would give Justice Marshall the “national and international recognition that he deserves.”

Airports in Atlanta, New Orleans and Jackson, Miss., recently have been renamed for prominent blacks.

The Senate and House are considering bills that would define what constitutes a criminal gang and make it illegal to recruit gang members.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford Republican, and Delegate Darryl Kelley, Prince George’s Democrat, are sponsors of the bills. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, police and prosecutors endorsed the legislation yesterday.

The bills would outlaw using violence or threats to coerce people into joining gangs or to prevent them from leaving gangs. The bills would allow judges to take gang activity into account when handing out sentences and would require police to notify schools about students convicted under the criminal gang act.

Two state’s attorneys — Montgomery County’s Douglas F. Gansler and Prince George’s County’s Glenn F. Ivey — said gangs are a problem in their counties, with some having ties to violent national criminal gangs.

“Right now, there’s no penalty” for gang activity even though police and prosecutors have identified as many as 90 gangs that are active in Montgomery County, Mr. Gansler said.

Supporters of the bills acknowledged they raise questions about potential infringement on a constitutional right to free assembly, but said similar laws have survived challenges in other states. According to the legislature’s research staff, eight states, including California and neighboring Virginia, have passed laws dealing with criminal street gangs.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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