May 16, 2004
Let's not wait
another 50 years for more integration
SC Statehouse Report
16 , 2004 - - Fifty years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court
issued a landmark opinion that sounded the death knell of
institutionalized racial segregation, America started to change.
In the years since, local, state and federal governments have
taken proactive steps to thwart segregation and discrimination
against black Americans. Schools were integrated. Equal employment
laws were passed. The Civil Rights Act became law. Affirmative
action programs helped to integrate workplaces and provide
opportunities. For many, these changes shook the foundations
of their lives. They were hard. But looking back, most now
see they were the right thing for a country that bills itself
as being the greatest vanguard of freedom for all in the world.
This week as we recall how Brown v. Board of Education
changed the country to start it toward integrating black and
white America, we also may want to remember theres another
group of Americans who are routinely discriminated against:
gays and lesbians.
You may not like that people are gay. Your religious beliefs
may tell you homosexuality is wrong. You may feel uncomfortable
around gay people.
But similar arguments were used 50 years ago in the withering
attempts to maintain racial segregation.
WORLD: When the cows come home to moo
Winners and losers of the past week
Letters on property taxes, base closure
encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to
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Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:
Face it. Gays are treated differently by society today. At
the federal level, there are 1,138 laws that use marital status
to determine whether someone can receive benefits, rights
or privileges, according to a 2004 General Accounting Office
survey. In other words, there are 1,138 laws that dont
allow gay couples to have the same rights as married straight
people. Thats discrimination.
This column isnt about gay marriage and whether it is
right or wrong. Its about whether a group of people
should continue to be treated differently - - segregated by
society - - because of laws.
In South Carolina, for example, the law doesnt guarantee
hospital visitation for people in same-sex relationships.
If a married person is in the hospital, a spouse or next-of-kin
can immediately visit. If a gay person is in the hospital,
his or her partner cant automatically visit. Instead,
next-of-kin - - who may be embarrassed that they have a gay
relative and not show up - - get preference.
Another example: gay and lesbian couples cant name each
other as beneficiaries on life insurance policies unless they
have an insurable interest, according to the Charleston-based
Alliance for Full Acceptance.
Gay couples also are denied retirement and pension benefits,
family leave, sick and bereavement leave and crime victim
recovery benefits. There is no tax exemption for assets transferred
to a partner on the death of another and no family medical
insurance protection in the law.
Next year, lawmakers should take steps to tear down these
and other state barriers for gay South Carolinians. These
impediments dont have to do with marriage. They have
to do with legal barriers that keep gays and lesbians from
being treated equally.
But for state lawmakers to move forward, gays and lesbians
may need to tone down some of their rhetoric. The Rev. Joseph
A. Darby, pastor at Morris Brown A.M.E. Church in Charleston,
says the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s provide
I think the gay and lesbian pride movement needs to
work harder to remind folks they are people who are like us,
Instead of pushing for quick, wholesale change and using polarizing
activist tactics, they should move at a pace for change that
society can accept, which is what the Rev. Martin Luther King
did, he said. If the civil rights movements early spokesman
had been Stokely Carmichael or Eldridge Cleaver instead of
King, integration and acceptance would have taken a lot longer,
said Darby, who also is vice-chair of the state conference
of the NAACP.
Cultural discrimination against blacks still exists today
- - some people just wont ever get over prejudice. But
racial discrimination buttressed by law is largely a thing
of the past. Lets learn from the past and hope we dont
have to wait another 50 years for gays and lesbians to be
treated like everyone else.
5/16: This year's job market for grads
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
5/11: State lawmakers frustrate county
To the editor:
Your comments on the property tax issues (Statehouse
Report, 5/9) encouraged me to voice my opinions.
I am an 18-year veteran of county finance and believe me when
I say that it is just unbelievably frustrating to deal with
a budget process each year that includes more and more unfunded
mandates by the state and federal governments -- particularly
when you are being "managed" by a group of people
who are easily accessible to the taxpayer, easily influenced
by a vocal minority, and continue to hold council offices
only if they continue their ultraconservative vote and never
ever plan past the next election.
The state lawmakers know that they can just pass the financial
responsibilities on to local governments, set maximums on
reassessment, lower taxes, dictate fees that increase the
state general fund, but only create additional county administration
cost, and whatever else they want to do to get reelected with
a maximum of media coverage and a minimum of actual work (have
you ever seen the lack of respect/attention/decorum during
a legislative session).
As a middle-class taxpayer, I am so tired of having to fund
more than my share of county services because I have been
financially responsible and frugal and have accumulated some
property. With this in mind, I continue to believe that an
increased sales tax is the only revenue producer that is "fairer"
to every taxpayer ..... if you don't have the money to purchase
something, then you don't buy it. Get rid of the ridiculous
sales tax cap on vehicles and allow the "visitors"
to our beautiful state to help pay for our overhead without
causing an increase need for services. I do realize that something
would have to be done to counter the loss of business property
taxes, but since Georgia and Florida seem to make it work
successfully, there must be ways out there if we could get
off our high-horse and look.
-- Deborah Shealy Nye, CGFO, Summit, SC.
property values are culprit on tax debate
To the editor:
[On your property tax column] turn your thoughts to the one
situation that a lot of these bills try to address: the family
who passes along valuable resort or vacation or even primary
property to heirs who are less wealthy than their fathers/grandfathers
and who then are forced to sell the property as property taxes
rise and rise. Here's the rub: the family's intent is NOT
to sell, this is NOT investment property in the normal sense,
but the average income heirs cannot afford ever rising property
A different, but similarly difficult situation has occurred
along our barrier islands but THIS TIME, the original owners
were never wealthy. They just happened to own land that is
now considered valuable. These poor folks can of course sell
their land BUT unfortunately they are frequently forced to
sell for BACK TAXES they cannot afford .....so they don't
even profit when their now very valuable property is sold.
And to make things worse, they are not sophisticated about
how our real-estate system works and so even if not forced
to sell for back taxes, they often don't properly profit when
they voluntarily sell their property. Rising property taxes
based on rising property values are again the culprit.
-- S.A. Imbeau, Florence, S.C.
in base closure column
To the editor:
Thurmond and Spence didnt chair their committees until
after the 1994 elections. (See Statehouse
Report, 5/2). But the way the process is set
up, it wouldnt have been a big help if they were. One
of the few things in Washington that works pretty much as
I think one thing that could have helped that time was having
a united front. Riley took the lead in trying to save a base
that was in NORTH Charleston. Where the hell was then-Mayor
Bobby Kinard? Fighting with City Council.
Kinda hard for the mayor of the city next door to make a
convincing pitch, no matter how well intentioned Joes
appeals were. The mayor of N/C should have been the point
man, instead of leaving Joe with the admirable and unappreciated
job of trying to save what North Charleston didnt want
That was, until they lost it
-- W. Earl Capps, Summerville, S.C.
Editor's Note: Mr. Capps is exactly right on
the chairmanship issue. We regret the error.
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Ways and Means. Hats off to House Ways and Means Committee
members who voted to delay debate -- and likely kill -- the
governor's bad school voucher plan that would drain money
from public schools. It's only a temporary win, because the
measure is destined to be hot next year.
Graham. A tip of the hat to US Sen. Lindsey Graham
whose probing questions on Iraq have demonstrated an aura
of statesmanship and maturity not evident during the Clinton
Sanford. We agree with House Ways and Means Chairman
Bobby Harrell that it was inappropriate for the governor to
lobby the Board of Economic Advisers on its budget forecast.
S.C. House. Only one day on the budget amendments?
The House leadership should allow the minority to have more
of a say in debate instead of cutting it off all too often.
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