- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is receiving criticism nationally and locally for his decision last week to fire a Metro Board member who said in a public forum that he thinks homosexuals are “persons of sexual deviancy.”

“Mr. Ehrlich is using his power as governor to declare that a tenet of the Catholic faith is a form of bigotry. That’s a bigoted act on Mr. Ehrlich’s part,” said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America, a national Christian group based in the District.

“Shame on Governor Ehrlich for capitulating to this kind of pressure and dismissing a good man who was doing a good job,” Mr. Knight said.

Chris Core, a conservative talk-show host on WMAL-AM (630), and the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., have started e-mail petition drives asking Mr. Ehrlich to reinstate Robert J. Smith, a Gaithersburg architect and Republican activist.

In addition, the Archdiocese of Washington has expressed displeasure over Mr. Ehrlich’s decision.

“It would be unfortunate if it was [Mr. Smith] trying to express his faith teachings in a context also unrelated in his position on the Metro Board that resulted in him being dismissed from the board,” archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said.

Mr. Ehrlich has declined to explain why he fired Mr. Smith last Thursday. Hours earlier, a fellow board member — D.C. Council member Jim Graham, a Ward 1 Democrat who is openly homosexual — had demanded that Mr. Smith apologize, resign or be fired.

“There’s nothing more to say,” Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said this week.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican seeking re-election in a heavily Democratic state, last week called Mr. Smith’s comments on a Montgomery County public access cable TV program “highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable.”

“They are in direct conflict to my administration’s commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity,” the governor said.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is Catholic and running for the U.S. Senate, declined to comment yesterday. The Republican Senate candidate has supported a constitutional ban on same-sex “marriage.”

Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel County Republican, said Mr. Smith’s firing was unjust and “intolerant of the moral values of many Marylanders.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that the governor has caved in to the homosexual lobby on this issue,” said Mr. Dwyer, who led the unsuccessful effort to put the same-sex “marriage” ban on the ballot.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a Christian lobbying group, called the firing an “egregious step of injustice” and said Mr. Smith’s civil rights have been violated.

“This, unfortunately, is a foretaste of things to come,” Mr. Perkins said. “The government cannot promote and condone behavior such as homosexuality without having to clamp down and suppress those who oppose it.”

Mr. Smith made his comments during a June 9 taping of the program “21 This Week,” hosted by longtime political analyst Blair Lee.

A Catholic and frequent participant on the program, Mr. Smith was asked his opinion about a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.

He said the federal government should not “proffer a special place of entitlement within the laws of the United States for persons of sexual deviancy.”

Mr. Smith has stood by his comments and said he has received more than 1,000 e-mails and phone calls supporting him.

“I’ve learned from all the messages I’ve received that I’m not alone in that view. I’m not a voice calling in the desert,” he said.

He also criticized Mr. Ehrlich, saying “I did not think the governor of Maryland would have so little guts as to not stand up to a character such as Jim Graham.”

Mr. Graham told The Washington Times that he was offended by Mr. Smith’s choice of words, not his expression of his religious opinion.

“Had he said, ‘I don’t approve of homosexuality,’ I wouldn’t have been offended,” Mr. Graham said. “He didn’t say that … He compared me to child molesters, and I take offense.”

Mr. Graham said the word “deviant” is “pregnant with meaning,” because it was the term used until 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association to describe homosexuality as a mental illness.

However, Mr. Smith said “deviant” means “abnormal, out of the norm. If you deviate from the norm in society, you are deviant.”

“There is no evidence, either in voting or in public statements or in the way I treat people, that I have been intolerant,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s Mr. Graham who is intolerant.”

Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, a homosexual lobbying group, praised the governor’s decision and compared Mr. Smith’s comments to racism.

“It is immoral to judge people as immoral just because of their sexual orientation,” he said.

But Mr. Dwyer said the political ramifications of Mr. Ehrlich’s decision could be devastating.

“The governor has compromised the principles of most Marylanders,” he said. “If [Mr. Ehrlich] believes the homosexual lobby will get him re-elected in 2006, I think he is making a serious error in judgment.”

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