Potomac Confidential: Same-Sex Marriage, Slots at Shopping Malls, In-State and Out-of-State Admissions in Va. and Md., More
Washington's Hour of Talk Power

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, May 7, 2009 12:00 PM

Metro columnist Marc Fisher was online Thursday, May 7, at Noon ET to look at the same-sex marriage movement in the District, the push for slots at a shopping mall in Anne Arundel County and the tension between in-state and out-of-state admissions at Virginia and Maryland universities.


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks.

Will President Obama be forced to take a stand on same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia? It's not hard to imagine a scenario in which a congressional rebellion against the D.C. Council's move to legalize gay marriage ends with the president having to sign or veto a bill--exactly the sort of up or down choice that Obama would dearly love to avoid. For years, D.C. politicians have avoided the gay marriage issue for exactly this reason: Especially during the Bush Administration, they didn't want to take the chance that a local decision would become the foundation for a nationwide setback for their cause. Now, however, with a change at the top, council members are charging ahead with a same-sex marriage initiative. The problem they'll face, however, is that as much as they may like this president on other issues, he campaigned as someone who was dead set against gay marriage. How does this one play out?

Today's column looks at the bait and switch that Maryland voters are now confronting as the Anne Arundel County Council considers whether to allow slot machines to go not to the local race track, but to the shopping mall--Arundel Mills, to be precise. In some ways, slots make more sense at the mall than at the horse track, but that's not how a lot of shoppers I spoke to see it.

Lots of reader reaction to the debate in Virginia--and in Maryland as well--over just how far state colleges should go toward balancing their budgets by letting in a higher percentage of out-of-state students, who pay vastly higher tuitions than than their in-state classmates. Many of you are frustrated that out-of-state kids are taking up seats while your kids can't get into their own state's colleges. That's understandable, but those parents also need to realize that the only reason the colleges are grabbing onto those out-of-staters is to subsidize the in-state kids who pay less than a third of the tuition that's charged to the education immigrants. The fix lies with state legislators funding public colleges at the levels they did a couple of decades ago.

On to your many comments and questions, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to Montgomery County schools superintendent Jerry Weast for being among the first school officials to stand up against the hysteria that closed entire schools because one kid might have contracted swine flu. Luckily, the feds have now followed Weast's lead and have revised their advice so that schools might not feel compelled to shut down just because one kid might have a flu that appears to be quite mild.

And staying with the flu theme, Nay to those parents who, according to a New York Times story today, are planning to hold swine flu parties to get their kids infected, the theory being that by being exposed to the virus, their babes will build up immunity naturally. This is apparently the anti-vaccination crowd in action, the same folks who the Times tells us hold "chickenpox parties" where they put their kiddies into a room with a chicken pox victim so that the precious ones can build up immunity against a potentially stronger infection down the road. I guess I've heard dumber ideas, but at the moment, I can't quite think of when that might have been. I'd love to hear from anyone who has actually held or been to such a party--do we believe this really exists?

Your turn starts right now....


Navy Yard: Regarding the gay marriage issue in D.C., is the simmering animosity between the city's African-American community and the city's GLBT community finally coming to the surface? Is the Post planning to do any stories about the roots of this problem and the misunderstandings each group has about the other?

Marc Fisher: Well, it sure did look for a few minutes this week like we were seeing the unraveling of a longstanding alliance between black and gay political factions in Washington. This is mainly the result of a strange switcheroo on the part of Marion Barry, who rose to political power in the first place as the civil rights leader who represented the voice of the disenfranchised black neighborhoods of Washington, but who made a big effort to reach out to gay groups around town from the very start of his career. No big-city mayor outside of San Francisco was more closely associated with gay causes and political groups than Barry.

So for him now to flip and declare that a civil war is coming because blacks feel so strongly about the wrongness of gay marriage was a shocker for many in the city. On the other hand, every other member of the council, black or white, signed on to the legislation recognizing same-sex marriages from other states, so they've made a calculation that there really isn't such a deep well of anti-gay marriage sentiment in black Washington. I think those council members are right: There is opposition, but it is based more in Prince George's County and in the big churches there than in the District itself.


Laurel, Md.: The outrage shown at D.C. City Hall by the local African-American ministers and preachers is unbelievable. Why is it they are wasting so much time and energy worrying about what gay people who love each other do? Where is the outrage with the poverty, violence and awful schools in the city?

What do you think the deal is with Marion Barry and his sudden shift against gay marriage? Is his district really that homophobic that he feels he has to oppose gay rights?

Marc Fisher: The leaders and the crowd at the anti-gay marriage rally were dominated by church groups from Prince George's. Some of those pastors claimed to represent members who live in the District, but the strong pattern of movement for those churches has been from the city out to the suburbs, and the lack of significant signs of grassroots opposition from within the city emboldened council members to charge ahead with this initiative.


Gaithersburg, Md.: If anyone needed a reason to back the movement to allow same-sex marriage, I've got a whale of one for them to consider:

Marion Barry is against it.

(Yeah, he said he's really for it, but just voted against it...but don't ruin the only fun I'll have today, given how the office is shaking out).

Serious question: Has anyone on the "national scold" side ever been able to answer specifically how gays marrying negatively impacts their own lives and marriages in a specific and quantifiable way?

Marc Fisher: The pace at which the gay marriage movement is winning in one state after another is quite remarkable. Was this purely a matter of political strategy--were all of these state legislatures really ready to make this move years ago, but waited til the Bush administration went away? Or is this just a snowballing growing from below, a gradual accruing of popular acceptance of same-sex bonds?


Logan Circle, D.C.: I have to say that I'm impressed that the D.C. Council actually voted to recognize all marriages from other jurisdictions. I was a little taken aback by the behavior of the protesters -- both at the meeting and, apparently, questioning some councilmember's faith and Christianity. Kind of reminds me of Fred Phelps ....

How do you see the future battle shaping up, and will future displays like the one last Tuesday do more harm than good to the ministers' cause?

Marc Fisher: Unquestionably, the anti-gay marriage side's tactics are counter-productive in the District--every rally slamming gays as immoral only bolsters support for the marriage initiative in the city. But that's not the audience the religious groups are going after: They are aiming at Congress, and there, their tactics make more sense. The anti-gay marriage activists know that Congress loves to bash the District, and given the ease with which the Defense of Marriage Act passed, it's fair to assume that there's an excellent chance that Republicans and conservative and moderate Democrats will rise up against the District's moves on behalf of gay marriage.


Marc Fisher: JUST IN: Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games after he tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs.


Just Manny being Manny, huh?


Chicken Pox Parties: This used to be the norm, Marc. Several decades ago when I was just a lad, my mom purposefully sent me over to a neighbor's house to play when she had the chicken pox because she wanted me to get them as a child, as opposed to having a more serious problem getting them as an adult. When that didn't work, she waited till the next case and sent me over there to play. I never got them. Ironically I got them out of the blue (no one around me had them) a few years later.

washingtonpost.com: Debating the Wisdom of 'Swine Flu Parties' (The New York Times, May 6)

Marc Fisher: Somehow, I missed this completely. If any of you know of such a party around here, please drop me a line.


Houston, Tex.: Do you know why the Full Faith and Credit clause doesn't apply to gay marriage? Why isn't a marriage, valid in one state, valid in all? My Texas driver's license works in all 50 states. Could, say, Oregon, choose not to recognize my license?

Marc Fisher: That's where your Defense of Marriage Act comes into play: It specifically frees states of any obligation to recognize as married same-sex couples who are considered legally married in another state.


Falls Church, Va.: I assume you saw that Jim Moran is now seeking to ban erectile-dysfunction ads.

I'm curious; does this bring out your libertarian, let-everyone-smoke side, or your nannying, don't-let-anyone-gamble side?

washingtonpost.com: Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) on Erectile-Dysfunction Medication Ads

Marc Fisher: Both, so I am conflicted. But the fact that the motivation here is to do a public service for parents by setting up rules so that millions of little kids aren't forever pestering their parents with questions about four-hour erections tilts me over to the nanny side on this one.

And I'm even more securely on Moran's side because his proposal is really purely symbolic. The fact is that, as The Post's Lisa DeMoraes reports today, 83 percent of kids' TV viewing takes place on cable channels, which would not be affected by Moran's proposal, because the FCC doesn't regulate cable's content. The feds only have authority over the content on broadcast TV, and kids hardly watch broadcast TV anymore.

So I like the idea that someone would stand up to the greedheads of the TV industry and say, hey, we know you're, um, hard up for cash, but move those erectile ads to late-night. The Moran proposal would limit sexually explicit ads to after 10 p.m., which seems fair enough. But again, it's all theoretical, because cable can do whatever it wants to, and there's no way they'd voluntarily limit the hours of erection ads.


washingtonpost.com: Source: Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez tests positive for banned substance, gets 50-game ban (Daily News)


Anonymous: To those who think Congress is not addressing the most critical problems of the day, I saw that Rep. Jim Moran is introducing a bill to prevent the airing of erectile dysfunction advertisements on TV between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. If you don't like a type of ad, call Jim and he'll have it outlawed. I don't know which is more ridiculous, Moran's bill or the fact that radio talk show host Michael Weiner (also known by his more macho stage name Michael Savage), who has said 90 percent of the Nobel committee is into pedophilia and that Mexicans have engaged in germ warfare by bringing in swine flu, says he'll sue the British Home Secretary for defamation of character for saying he's banned from entering the U.K. due to his extreme views (not sure where he plans to sue).

washingtonpost.com: See Third Topic Item: Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) on Erectile-Dysfunction Medication Ads (Post, May 7)

Marc Fisher: I'm with Savage on this one--what business is it of the British Home Secretary what some lunatic radio talk host says about the Brits or anyone else? Anyway, Savage doesn't believe a quarter of what he rants about on the radio. He's a nice Jewish boy who lives in San Francisco and makes his millions by creating beautifully manicured rants on the radio. He's terrifically good at his work and the Brits should give him a prize rather than a new boatload of publicity.


Laurel, Md.: I voted against slots, mainly because I think the whole idea is politicians' way of abdicating their responsibilities of publicly deciding who should pay how much for what government programs. Slots -- and, inevitably, casinos - -can be presented to voters as "free money" because it's discretionary.

I think the same problem manifests itself in the debate over in-state and out-of-state students. The politicians want the public to believe they're in favor of a higher in-state ratio, but won't do anything about the money needed to make it so. The fault ultimately belongs to the voters, who don't want to pay for government programs -- like education -- but want to reap the benefits.

washingtonpost.com: A Matter Of Money, Not Md. (Post, May 7)

Marc Fisher: Good post--I like the analogy, and yes, in both cases, what we're really seeing is cowardly politicians punting on tough decisions about spending and taxing, choosing instead to try to raise money in less equitable, less transparent ways.


McLean, Va.: McDonnell has got the in-state thing wrong. My son is a junior at UVA, and my daughter is currently a sophomore. What's more, my husband and I donate heavily to the University.

The biggest thing we like about UVA is that the out-of-state kids, paying full tuition, are the "right" kind of kids for a place like UVA. They're kids who you would feel comfortable hosting at your beach house without embarrassing yourself with the neighbors. Having quotas of in-state kids just leads to more Richmond gang influence and Winchester Dukes of Hazzard types, and that undermines my children's college experience. Keeping the in-state quota low lets my children attend a university that is essentially private, yet with the lower tuition and our donations we get substantially more influence than paying full tuition (with no money left for a donation) at a Princeton or a Yale.

Marc Fisher: Well, that's an interesting perspective. It's clear from the admissions statistics that by bringing in top-shelf students from out of state, places like UVa and William & Mary can powerfully boost their reputations and the quality of education they offer. And those Virginia kids who do get in--still a huge majority of the students at each of the state's schools--benefit both from the mix of kids and from the massive subsidy that out of state students pay. But I don't know that you'd have such an easy time proving that the next batch of Virginia applicants, the ones who just missed getting in, are the Dukes of Hazzard types who so repel you. In fact, any admissions officer would tell you that they could easily fill the entire class with kids who are absolutely identical to those who are admitted--it's a numbers game, and in Virginia, the out of state kids do boost the academic profile, but most of all, they boost the bottom line.


Severna Park, Md.: Every evening my wife and I throw our spare change in a box. It adds up pretty quickly.

Every few weeks, we take it to Dover or Charles Town to play the slots. We usually have a nice dinner and stay overnight, both at very reasonable prices. We're not big sports, movie or concert fans, so this is our primary form of entertainment.

What with the Maryland slots debate, we had both been hoping that we would in time be able to do this closer to home. Save on gas and keep Maryland dollars in Maryland.

Is this asking too much? Apparently it is.

We don't get it.

washingtonpost.com: A Matter Of Money, Not Md. (Post, May 7)

Marc Fisher: Sure, it makes sense that you'd want your own state to get your gambling dollars rather than a neighboring state, and that's fair and right. But isn't the larger question whether states ought to be balancing their budgets on the backs of gamblers in the first place, and especially of the generally lower-income gamblers who dominate the slots audience, as opposed to the relatively higher demographic who populate full-out casinos?

If you buy the idea that the state should support and encourage gambling, then by all means, every state should jump into the pool. But if you think politicians should raise the money their states need through honest and fair means, then maybe you say no to slots, or at least keep the state out of the business and just legalize gambling and let the industry operate as any other industry would, with no special taxes or restrictions.


Hanover, Md.: In regards to your slots article, have you talked to residents who live right next door to Arundel Mills? I'm not sure when you started reporting on Arundel Mills, but there is a significant push in opposition to bringing a slots parlor to Arundel Mills by local residents. If you want accurate reporting on what's being done, please come to the food court this Sat., May 9th at 5 p.m.

Marc Fisher: Yes, there is indeed a significant opposition group and that's part of why the county council is taking such a deliberate approach to making this decision. In the end, my bet is that the council will approve the idea--hard times make many folks a lot more flexible in their principles.


D.C.: Anyone who expresses surprise at the gay marriage divide is really oblivious.

The black churches are filled mostly with older African American women. The District's gay constituency -- white, wealthy, educated, young, and not all that observant -- not at all the same demographic.

I think there is common ground, but to expect instant and complete agreement is to be blinded by your own self-righteousness.

The council leaders think they get to take a stand on this issue without being criticized; if you weren't subject to criticism, it wouldn't be taking a stand! Barry, a civil rights veteran, to his credit, at least seems to admit he's going to get pilloried over this reality.

Marc Fisher: The divide is every bit as much generational as it is racial or class-based. Oddly, there does not seem to be much of an effort by gay advocates or by more liberal black church leaders to bridge that divide or to make the connection between civil rights struggles of 40 years ago and the efforts by gays today.


Rockville, Md.: I would love to have a debate with the anit-gay marriage people. I'm confident that their side will be squarely based on the statement "God meant it to be between a man and a woman." What they forget is that during Loving v. Virginia, the attorney for Virginia argued that God had meant for the races to be separate and had it not been for human intervention (i.e. slave trade), the races would have remained separate.

Same story, different type of marriage. If the Supreme Court ever decides gay marriage isn't protected by the Constitution, I expect them to reverse Loving v. Virginia.

Marc Fisher: This issue is playing out more in the political arena than in the courts--at least for now--largely because the anti-gay marriage side seems to be calculating that they can still win by rallying people who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, whereas they figure they will have a much rougher time of it in the courts, which are dominated by the elites, including both liberals and conservatives, who have largely come to terms with gay rights.


Why is it they are wasting so much time and energy worrying about what gay people who love each other do?: Because they blame the gay population for gentrification.

Marc Fisher: ThreadWeaver nominee...


Arlington Gay: The Defense of Marriage Act is just that, an act. Congress doesn't have the power to pass an act that overrides the Constitution. So could you provide a better answer to the previous question? (btw, I married my partner of 10 years last summer. I hope I haven't hurt the marriages of any straight chatters.)

Marc Fisher: Whatever you call it, the act is the law, and while any law is subject to constitutional challenge, it is nonetheless the law of the land until and unless it is tossed out. But DOMA doesn't prevent a state from accepting the marriage laws of another state, and that's what the District and several states are now doing.


Rockville, Md.: Regarding Moran and the ED ads, the government shouldn't limit the time when the ads can play but simply say the ads can't be during shows kids are likely to watch. The ED manufacturers show the ads during programs men with ED are likely to watch (i.e. sports). Problem is, sports is a great family bonding activity.

Right now, I can't watch sports with my kids and I hate it.

Marc Fisher: You could just tune away when the game goes to commercial, no?

In any event, you and I probably would eventually agree that we don't want the government cataloging every show on TV to determine if it does or doesn't get to have ED ads. The less intrusive move would be to set time limits, as has been done for foul language and other content that's problematic for kiddies.


Washington, D.C.: In light of black voters' demonstrated opposition to gay marriage in California, why wouldn't you expect similar opposition from the black community in D.C.?

Also, given that Obama's inner circle of religious advisors are all ministers opposed to gay marriage, do you think the actions by the D.C. Council will result in pressure on Obama to reiterate his personal opposition?

Marc Fisher: The polling data I've seen does indeed indicate stronger opposition to gay marriage among blacks than among whites, but black attitudes on homosexuality, like those of other ethnic groups, are not monolithic, and the differences pretty well track the distinctions in demographics between the District and Prince George's County. Younger voters generally are more open to gay marriage, and the District's population is younger than the county's. Single people are generally more open to gay marriage, and the District has a higher proportion of single residents than the suburbs do. So there's some reason to believe that the District's black voters would be more supportive of gay marriage than those voters in the suburbs. But I'd love to see some serious polling on whether these assumptions really do hold up.


Deliberately exposed to German measles: Marc, I was born in 1948 and I was deliberately exposed to German measles because I think the idea was that it was better to get them as a child than when I was an adult female and might be pregnant. They can cause birth defects.

Marc Fisher: Fascinating--and how did you enjoy your time with the measles?


Chicken pox parties: When my wife and her twin brother had chicken pox, her cousins were sent to play with them and "get it over with." All of the aunts were teachers, so I think they wanted to control the timing so that the kids were sick summer break when it was easier for the moms to take care of them.

She's 30 now.

Marc Fisher: I see the logic--I just can't imagine intentionally hurling my kids into a room to get a disease that will make them miserable for some period of days.


Chantilly, Va.: I don't know about "swine flu parties," but I remember when I was a kid back in the 1950s that parents were still letting their kids go to a sick friend's house so they'd get whatever he had and "get it over with now." Eeek. (That didn't apply to polio, of course, when it seemed that everyone believed other swimming pools couldn't possibly be contaminated and they fled their local pools in droves.)

Marc Fisher: Lots of these in the queue, but not a word from anyone who knows of such parties happening in recent times.


Herndon, Va.: To the UVA parent who protests the thought of letting "Richmond gang influence and Winchester Dukes of Hazzard types" into their precious UVA: Your snobby, upper-class, better-than-thou, gated-community worldview is more likely to undermine your children's education than exposure to other high-performing young adults from a variety of backgrounds. No one, in-state or otherwise, gets into UVA without being an exemplary student. Beach-house worthiness is not a criteria on the application.

Marc Fisher: Thanks--I kind of thought there'd be some reaction on this...and there are a whole bunch. Here's a sampling....


undermines my children's college experience.: I think it's your SOCIAL CLIMBING that you're worried about rather than your kids' learning about the real world.

Marc Fisher: And this....


VA Resident: Marc, I strongly disagree with opinion about in state vs out of state students, but I am not surprised at your comments considering your general discontent for the state and its residents. The basic reason is that by not allowing more in state students, those same residents are forced to go to out of state or private schools in affect, raising their costs. The state's responsibility is to its residents first and the best way to achieve that is to slightly raise the in state tuition and then provide grants and scholarships as needed.

Marc Fisher: I think you have it backwards--yes, those families whose kids don't get into a state school have to face some more expensive alternatives, but for those many tens of thousands of Virginia kids who do get into state colleges each year, their incredibly low tuition rate is very much made possible by the presence of those out-of-state kids, who are paying something like $22,000 a year vs.. the $7,000 the in-state kids pay. So the trick for the colleges is to find the right balance that maintains as many spaces for in-state kids as possible while still bringing in the bucks from the outsiders. This calculation wouldn't be nearly as difficult and there'd be lots more room for more Virginians if the legislature gave the colleges the degree of support they got, say, 10 or 20 years ago.


Rockville, Md.: I am no fan of ED ads -- not my problem. But I don't see anything offensive about them. What am I missing?

The add that bothers me is "Do you want your pain now or later?"

Wel, I hardly ever get heartburn, either. But when the guy says "It is a simple question." I want to smack him.

I got a simple answer for you. "No."

Marc Fisher: I don't get the whole concept of TV advertising for prescription drugs. If you have to have a doctor decide you need the drug in the first place, what possible benefit do the drug companies get from such advertising? Does there live a person who really has "asked your doctor today" about a particular drug they saw advertised on TV?


Ads: People talk about offensive dialogue in ads (four-hour erections?) but I have never EVER voluntarily listened to an advertisement. I see men walking on beaches, or (ew) throwing a football through a tire swing. But I don't hear what they, or Apple, or that weird perky retail person apparently selling insurance, are saying. I admit, it leaves me out of a few conversations when folks are talking about the "I'm a PC" ads, but it's worth it.

So what I want to know is, what's wrong with Jim Moran's "mute" button?

Marc Fisher: In our house, we never see the ads because somebody of the ilk that Rep. Moran is so worried about changes the channel over to ESPN News whenever there's a commercial break on any other channel.


D.C. : I hate to break it to some of your readers, but there are many people who live in the DiIstrict who support marriage equality that are neither gay, white, nor wealthy(including me). The city is different now, and I would venture to say that there are a lot of residents who either support the measure or would not necessarily vote against it.

Marc Fisher: Sounds right--that's what the D.C. Council members I've spoken to about this issue say too.


Anonymous: "Oddly, there does not seem to be much of an effort by gay advocates or by more liberal black church leaders to bridge that divide or to make the connection between civil rights struggles of 40 years ago and the efforts by gays today."

I think the gay community has seen the backlash from equating marriage equity to the civil rights movement. However, I think that if you replace the words "openly gay" with "black" and "black" with "white" in the Barry quote below ...

"What you've got to understand is 98 percent of my constituents are black and we don't have but a handful of openly gay residents," Barry said. "Secondly, at least 70 percent of those who express themselves to me about this are opposed to anything dealing with this issue. The ministers think it is a sin, and I have to be sensitive to that."

Marc Fisher: Yes, there has been backlash, but why let that stop them? If they believe in their cause and see it as a civil rights issue, since when do such advocates let the longstanding views of others stand in their way?


Brookland, D.C.: It's mostly generational, and please be wary of generalizing too much. My mother, an 84-year-old black church lady, is extremely supportive of my brother and his partner.

Marc Fisher: As in most of these social issues, age usually trumps race, class and ethnicity.


Dunn Loring, Va.: What's your take on Obama's latest flip-flop to allow the D.C. voucher program to continue? Do you think he wanted his daughters to be exposed to at least two lower income kids instead of just rich white kids of lawyers and Washington Post reporters?

Marc Fisher: Hardly a flip-flop. The Obama administration is killing the voucher program. Yesterday's development is being misinterpreted rather widely. The president has now agreed with just about everyone on both sides of the issue, who all say that those kids who are already in the program should be allowed to finish up on vouchers at their existing schools. That's only fair--no kid should have to be ripped out of a school and community because the government is riding a pendulum back and forth on a given issue. But the larger question of whether to use tax dollars to pay for kids to go to religious schools is the key one here and the Obama administration has taken a clear position that that is a just plain wrong use of taxpayers' money.


McLean, Va.: Just a clarification -- I'm not saying we should BAN the Richmond/Winchester types forever. Just have them prove themselves, that they can contribute something tangible to the University family. If a kid walks away from the Crips or the Boar's Nest and spends a good 8 years in the U.S. Armed Services fighting terrorism there so we don't face it here, then I can understand giving the kid GI Bill benefits to apply to his tuition bill. But make them DO something first for our security and our stock market, rather than just looking for an in-state handout as though nothing's expected of them.

Marc Fisher: Shovel, please.


Ask your doctor today: You better believe it. People come in asking for drugs when they don't even know what they treat.

Ask yourself this question Marc -- do you think the pharmaceutical industry buys all those ads out of charity for the hurting television industry?

Marc Fisher: I'm sure you're right--they wouldn't pay those big bucks if they didn't think they were getting something from it. But I just can't imagine the conversation that ensues at the doc's office.

"Hey, doc, I was watching the tube the other night and I think I should get me some of that medicine that turns you into a dazed-looking waif wandering through a field of wild flowers."

"Sure, here's your scrip--that'll be $275."


Capitol Hill, D.C.: Gays have fought hard for equal rights and advancement for blacks in D.C. for decades now.

And we naively assumed that they would do the same for us.

Now it turns out that's not necessarily the case.

This decision by some of the powers-that-be in the black political community in D.C. to not support same sex marriage may well be something that they come to regret. D.C. will soon no longer be majority black. Blacks have to now share political power with Hispanics and other groups.

I think this decision will be seen as a turning point in politics in D.C., when the old guard left realized that perhaps we aren't as monolithic as we thought. And next time a black identity political issue comes around in D.C. you may find a good many of us liberals not pursuing the matter with the fervor and resources that we may have used in years past.

Marc Fisher: Nice little threat, but I don't buy it. I don't see any willingness on the part of advocates for same-sex marriage to confront blacks or Hispanics in any way on this issue. It's fascinating that anxiety over race and ethnicity issues trumps taking on a battle over the single issue that many gay advocates say is most important to their cause.


Washington, D.C.: I really don't understand the gay marriage debate. Can someone please make a non-religion-based argument against it. To me it is a denial of equal protection. There are so many rights and privileges bestowed by marriage. Either get the state out of the marriage game or allow two consenting adults of whichever sex to get married.

Marc Fisher: Now you're talking--take the state entirely out of the marriage biz. That's your easy and fair solution. Let a thousand flowers bloom. You want to be in a religion that sticks to traditional definitions of marriage--go for it. You don't--that's fine too. Just pay your taxes on April 15 and live with whomever you want to.


Oh no: Please tell me McLean is just yanking our chains. He's not really suggesting that poor or low-class kids should have to prove themselves worthy of the same state benefit that he's willing to take for his own kids, right? Reassure me that this is a troll, and that a rational human being can't believe this sort of thing.

Marc Fisher: I would not bet that this is a hoax of any kind.


Arlington, Va.: OK, I take it back; maybe the McLean chatter wasn't kidding.

If that's the case, all I can say is wow. We need more than just a shovel.

Marc Fisher: Plenty of extra construction tools lying around these days. A shovel brigade may be needed to dig him out of that one.


Chicken pox: On the local parenting fora, this is an oft-discussed topic. But most parents in D.C. are well educated and rational and don't put up with a lot of fuzzy intuition-only science, so anyone suggesting that real-world exposure is better than vaccines gets shut down quickly and viciously. If you really want to, go to metro mommies or dc urban moms and search the fora for chickenpox parties. Oh, and I should warn you: quite a few of the threads you'll find are started by WP reporters looking for true believers to interview.

Marc Fisher: Aargh! Sorry to hear that. But hey, you're there to see what folks are talking about, so it's only natural that our reporters would also be there to take the temperature of the community.


Arlington, Va.: There's a lot of difference between exposing children to chicken pox or something that was more or less inevitable prior to vaccines and exposing them to H1N1 because "it will build up their immunity." The former made some sense (I am speaking as one who had a miserable time with chicken pox as an adult)but the latter doesn't sound like it is either good medical practice nor good common sense. Teach those kids to wash their hands instead.

Marc Fisher: Sensible...


For Rockville, Md: " But I don't see anything offensive about them. What am I missing? "

Do you want your 6-year old daughter to turn to you and say "Daddy, what's a 4-hour erection?"

Not that the ED ads are offensive -- it's that they bring up conversations which -- while needed eventually -- are NOT needed during father-daughter bonding time over a good baseball game.

Marc Fisher: Right--it's an intrusion of a much more bothersome nature than your average We Buy Gold ad.


Montgomery Village, Md.: Marc

It's about time that Marylanders woke up and realized what a bill of goods they were sold -- and willingly bought with the slots nonsense. All of the projections for how much revenue the plan would produce were extremely rosy -- even under the best of economic conditions. I still don't buy the "this will only bring more crime" wailers, but why did the legislature and the voting public feel compelled to rescue the horse racing business? They have an outdated entertainment product that fewer and fewer people are interested in. The windfall to the DeFrancis family and Magna company is what made the "economics" of the slots program so unattractive to potential gambling investors/licensees. All the while, the huge amounts of proceeds that were to benefit state public education programs was also smoke and mirrors. Is it possible to "reconsider" the whole deal?

Marc Fisher: Nicely said--one major problem with the slots initiative is that it was meant as a sop to the horse industry, and that industry seems doomed even with slots.


Savage: Whether or not he should be permitted to enter Britain, should he be able to sue for defamation of character?

Marc Fisher: No way--he's a public figure.


Capitol Hill, D.C.: Mr. Fisher: I was surprised to see your chat title linking two unrelated topics, except that both might be considered "hot." One has to do with the topic that is hottest for most Marylanders (or so I would guess): money. The other a topic that hot for many D.C. residents: civil rights.

St. Marion the Virtuous threatens civil war over marriage equality. (OK, admittedly unfair, but how could anyone resist referring to Barry's well earned reputation?) This country once suffered through a civil war people fought over a fundamental question of human rights: Are all people created equal? The bloody final answer: YES. (Although we soon learned that those who believed in inequality from birth would scheme -- and continue to scheme -- to rob fellow citizens of their human rights.)

Now we are in what your colleague Daniel Froomkin yesterday called our contemporary civil rights movement. Those who oppose civil equality (and we're not talking about forcing any church to do what it opposes)now plan to beg Congress to lift the burden of democracy from the city. And if that fails to put the civil rights of many citizens on the ballot, where they hope a majority of citizens will vote second-class citizenship for their fellows.

You can see where I stand on this issue. What hope do people like me have to persuade our fellow citizens that we should be equal to them?

Marc Fisher: Seems to me you'd have a whole lot of hope--the pace of movement on this issue is nothing short of remarkable.


Silver Spring, Md.: Re: "Sure, here's your scrip--that'll be $275." LOL! ED drugs are covered by most medical plans.

Marc Fisher: I didn't mean the cost of the drug, but rather the cost of the privilege of speaking to a physician.


University Park, Md.: Re: McLean--This is getting better and better! A kid from Richmond or Winchester (whose parents also pay VA taxes, remember) can be deserving of an education if he/she risks life and limb for 8 years? While McLean's little Muffikins deserves one by virtue of being born wealthy? Aiaiai!

Marc Fisher: There are a whole bunch of these, but we're way out of time...so just one more:


RE: Beach House: Maybe her kids would be more comfortable going to Hogwarts schools for witches so they can grow up and be a real witch, just like their mom.

Marc Fisher: Ok, that has to wrap things up for today. Thanks very much for coming along; more in the paper on Sunday and on the blog every day. See you back here next week.


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