FROM CERTAIN LEGISLATORS in neighboring Annapolis comes a new smoke-screen excuse for denying full citizenship to people who live in the District of Columbia: Walter Fauntroy's conduct doesn't meet with their approval. A few Jewish delegates to the Maryland legislature are citing Mr. Fauntroy's meetings last fall with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat as reason to oppose ratification of the D.C. amendment. No doubt the next excuse will be that they don't like Mr. Fauntroy's looks or the cut of his suit.

Come off it. The issue is not Walter Fauntroy. Nor is it politics, religion, race, commuter taxes or anything other than a matter of fundamental democracy. One may quarrel with Mr. Fauntroy's handling of the ratification campaign or his political positions -- and we have. One criticism, in fact, has been that too often he has failed to share the leadership role in this effort with others who could help deflect the very sort of narrow personal attack that he and the amendment have come under.

As well as anyone, lawmakers from Maryland should know that the District of Columbia is home for all kinds of Americans who pay taxes, serve their country and fulfill other obligations of citizenship -- but who have no representation in the decisions on these taxes, on conscription, on war powers or on any other matter that comes before Congress. Who in Maryland -- or anywhere else in the United States -- would like this second-class citizenship imposed upon them merely because of where they live?

It is discouraging and frustrating that this understanding of the issue -- and of the District of Columbia as part of America -- has not yet come through as pervasively as it must for ratification. But that is no reason for supporters to abandon the effort. On the contrary, the situation demands the broadest possible coalitions of people to impress upon their state legislators the rightness of voting for the D.C. amendment.