More Jackson County Opinions...

July 16, 2003


Column
By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
July 16, 2003

Dark headllines of dog days
For many Georgians, the dog days of 2003 are turning into an Excedrin summer. Nothing appears to be going quite right. Headaches have replaced celebrations. The economy can’t seem to get moving. Traffic continues to be a nightmare in metro areas. New industry remains elusive in the rural regions.
Consider the gloomy Georgia headlines of the past few weeks, and you have to wonder whether the bad-luck dog days will ever end.
•The bleakest news came from Germany. Just as coastal Georgia prepared to celebrate and break ground for a $754 million Chrysler van plant near Savannah, the board of directors of DaimlerChrysler developed cold feet. The board announced from Stuttgart last week that the company had decided to “delay” a decision to build the 3,300-job factory.
Gov. Sonny Perdue said the decision was “not unexpected.” But Perdue and state Industry and Trade Commissioner Glenn Cornell visited Germany last month and returned to report the deal was in the bag.
So what happened? The Germans laid the official blame on a lackluster economy. Insiders say additional factors figured into the indefinite postponement. Among other things, Georgia’s continuing controversy over the Confederate flag made the supersensitive German business establishment fidgety. In Europe, the Confederate battle flag is associated with the resurgence of Nazism and skinheads — not our cherished Southern heritage.
(One reason South Carolina lost out to Georgia in the competition for the DaimlerChrysler plant last year: the controversy over flying the Confederate battle banner atop the state Capitol in Columbia, S.C. Georgia’s industry recruiters assured DaimlerChrysler that the flag matter had been resolved in our state. Not true, as the 2002 election and the 2003 legislative session proved.)
Regardless of the reason, putting the plant on hold has cast a pall over coastal Georgia, which counted on the plant to jump-start the area’s economy.
•In less than a year, Georgia has gone from cutting edge to last in the class in complying with President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education improvement package. Decisions to scrap national achievement tests and overturn much of the state’s school reform package may have set the state back at least a decade. Federal funds have been jeopardized in the rush to restore “local control” to the state’s historically subpar public schools.
•Georgia’s history-making HOPE scholarship program marked its 10th birthday last week, but hardly anyone celebrated. HOPE has provided 700,000 students with $2 billion in assistance since its inception in July 1993 under Gov. Zell Miller. “The program is becoming so great, however, that it is threatening to outgrow its resources,” writes Georgia Report editor Tom Crawford. “Some state officials estimate that within three years there may not be enough funds generated by the lottery to pay the expenses of all HOPE-eligible students.”
• Georgia remains out of compliance with clean air regulations and stands to lose billions in federal highway funds if it cannot come up with an acceptable plan to handle traffic and air pollution in the state’s jam-packed metro regions.
• On the eve of a grand campaign to raise a half-billion dollars to improve Bulldog Nation, the University of Georgia has sunk into a debilitating controversy involving President Michael Adams, Athletics Director Vince Dooley and the trustees of UGA. Contributions have started to dry up. Dooley seems destined to retire, and Adams to be replaced. If any clotheslines are left in Athens, they are hanging heavy with the university’s dirty linen. National sports commentators are having a field day at Georgia’s expense.
• Allegations of questionable state ethics practices abound, the most notable being Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tommie Williams’ collection of $60,000 in campaign contributions from the state’s largest road contractors. Williams pushed legislation in the last session of the General Assembly that may be worth millions to the highway-building firms. Sen. Williams, by the way, replaced Sen. Van Streat, who was ousted after facing a series of alleged ethics violations. Will these guys ever learn?
Of course, not all the news is bad. Georgia’s unemployment rate stands at 4.5 percent, well below the national level. The Atlanta Braves appear headed for yet another playoff and perhaps World Series. The Georgia Bulldogs look, on paper at least, as if they could win another SEC championship — if the coach doesn’t quit. And the dog days end about Aug. 11. After that, the news may brighten up.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
July 16, 2003

Same-sex marriage open for debate
Has there been a time when reality forced people to change their minds about what a word means?
Open your mind just for a moment.
Why does our government exist?
To protect and serve the people it was founded for. All of the people, equally, as it has been affirmed time and again.
Something else that has been affirmed to the point it is engraved, I’m sure, into even every second-grader’s mind taking U.S. History is the separation of church and state. This guarantees religious freedom to all people in the United States. The churches are quick to push legislators away and more recently the lawmakers are pushing religion away, forcing Alabama to remove the Ten Commandments from its state courthouse.
My point is this: even though the laws are based on Christian principles, the state is not religious. Any argument we make for or against a law or policy must be based on fact.
This said, last year, seven same-sex couples sued the state of Massachusetts claiming they were being discriminated against and denied equal protection under the state’s constitution because the state did not allow them to get a marriage license. A decision is expected any day.
The Massachusetts decision will come just weeks after the Supreme Court decision that invalidated a Texas law forbidding sodomy. The Court argued that the law violates personal liberty. Martha Minow, Harvard Law School, said the ruling is a “recognition that we must tolerate practices that are performed privately by free individuals who are consenting.” She believes the decision paves the way for an acceptance of same sex marriage.
Religious leaders are weighing in on the case arguing that marriage means the union of man and woman and if same-sex marriage is allowed, then the next step would be polygamy. And while I don’t think I would carry it that far, I do see their point. I looked marriage up 13 times on the Internet thanks to ask.com. Many of the larger dictionaries (Oxford, Cambridge and Merrium-Webster) do define marriage rigidly as being between man and woman only. But I was very surprised that six of the 13 were not so rigid and also included same-sex marriage in their definitions, including The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and the Wordsmyth English Dictionary-Thesaurus. They said marriage is “a union of man and woman as husband and wife,” but the second definition was “a close union of two people having the customary but not the legal force of marriage = same-sex marriage” (taken from The American Heritage Dictionary word for word). So while the religious leaders are right when they say their church does not recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage is recognized in six out of 13 English dictionaries.
In my life, marriage is intertwined with church. And my church will be the last to approve of same-sex marriages. They would probably excommunicate me first.
But I know many people who don’t feel the same way about church and marriage. And I am open minded enough to say that although religion is important to me, I don’t believe everyone has to have the same values and beliefs. Gay men and lesbians aren’t asking the Catholic Church to bless their union, they want the state to recognize their partnership for civil reasons, not religious ones. They want to file joint tax returns and add their partner to their health insurance policy. They want to be able to manage the care of their dying loved one whom they’ve lived with and loved for decades. It’s their life, not mine to decide.
I know what the Bible says. I’ve read it. (I know it also says tolerance and understanding are worthy virtues.) But the church is separate from the state. The state needs to decide what it will allow without the church. Each religion can decide for itself whether to recognize same-sex unions and each citizen in the United States can form whatever judgments they like about the practice, but the state must decide if it is discriminatory to disallow same-sex partners the legal benefits marriage brings.
Many countries have skirted the marriage issue and recognized same-sex relationships with a civil union status whereby partners share most of the benefits that marriage brings. Vermont has even done this and it seems like a sound option. Take the Old English term marriage out of the equation and maybe people won’t get so heated up about it. Who knows?
The Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage which will bring the issue to the forefront in the United States even if the Massachusetts decision doesn’t make many waves. Usually, couples who marry in Canada are also married in the United States. But whether same-sex marriages would also be recognized is a burning question on the minds of many across the nation. It will surely turn into a legal battle with the judicial system.
Thirty-seven states, including Georgia, have passed laws prohibiting people of the same sex to marry or to have a civil union. Georgia has also ruled that it will not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions that took place elsewhere. And some Massachusetts citizens want their legislators to end the controversy before the judicial system has its say, asking them to define marriage in the state laws as existing only between man and woman.
That will close the book. Sure.

Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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