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House panders with same-sex marriage vote

The cynical actions of members of the House of Representatives in their search of votes by cheap election year pandering continue to plumb new laws of civic irresponsibility. Rather than affirm the importance of marriage and families by dealing with serious issues like health care, education and retirement that affect us all, we're paying generous salaries and benefits to a group of pathetic shirkers who seek to impress us by standing up to defend the institute of marriage.

I submit to you that a marriage between a loving man and woman is not endangered by a marriage between a same-sex couple. It is endangered by an increased tendency toward light commitments lightly given, financial pressures from an increasingly vicious and competitive workplace, and an incompetently managed war on drugs. Congress could deal with the last two problems should it ever choose. The first problem lies squarely among ourselves.

A heterosexual marriage and a traditional family have more to fear from Congress, and the many things that it can do to detrimentally affect the future, than from homosexual marriages. Worry about finances, worry about educating the kids, worry about planning for your retirement, worry about crime, worry about the decreasing quality of lifebut don't waste a moment's concern about the negative effect of gay marriages on your own lifestyle.

No one is boosted higher by tearing someone else down. Our greatest living poet, Maya Angelou, says, "We are more alike than we are not alike." Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" _ powerful words of wisdom and advice. Far more worthy to follow than those of little people who seek to keep us divided to their advantage.

Bob Hughes, Clearwater

Clinton joins the discrimination

Regarding Howard Troxler's July 16 column More on the line in Congress than gay marriages.

While it is admirable of Troxler to find a bigger-picture issue with which Americans should be concerned within the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), let us not allow this to take away from the primary issue. This action by Congress is, plain and simple, an attempt to codify and legislate discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. And _ take note, gay and lesbian community _ Bill Clinton has not hesitated to endorse DOMA. He is suddenly "long opposed to same sex marriages."

The bigger issue that Troxler cites, of how states will treat each others' laws within the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, may ultimately prove to be the undoing of DOMA in the courts. But Clinton's willingness to march in goose-step along with Congress on this issue should give gays and lesbians cause to find a better candidate to support for president.

This is just one in a line of disappointments Clinton has delivered to progressives. (Remember lifting the ban on gays in the military? Universal health care? Repealing most favored nation trading status for China?)

Clinton may seem less threatening to gays and lesbians than Bob Dole, but remember when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you're still voting for evil. A vote for a progressive third party candidate, one who is dedicated to equal rights for all, is not wasted: It sends the message to Clinton _ and Congress _ that we will not tolerate being treated as second class citizens for the sake of political expediency.

Mark Hafen, St. Petersburg

Provocative comment

Re: a July 19 letter in response to Mike Royko's column, The right to be punched in the mouth.

The letter writer says he assumes that "the lady, or victim of this breast-grabbing incident, did something to provoke the man." He goes on to state that he "can't imagine it otherwise."

Well, while I don't normally condone violence in any form, I guess it won't take a rocket scientist to figure out who I want to punch in the mouth. It just seems like they keep getting dumb and dumber.

Linda Hubert, Madeira Beach

Make meetings work for parents

Re: Night meetings look likely for School Board, July 11.

The recent remarks by Pinellas County School Board member Corinne Freeman regarding fellow member Susan Latvala's willingness to respond to county residents' wishes for night meetings surprised me only in their degree of arrogance.

As a mother of a child entering kindergarten next month, I was surprised and dismayed to learn recently that the board meets only during the day. This makes it nearly impossible for me to ever attend a meeting, as I work outside my home. When I called each member on the phone about this, only Susan Latvala and Linda Lerner were sympathetic and willing to support a change in the board's policy. The other members, with the exception of Ms. Freeman, said they might consider night meetings. On the contrary, Ms. Freeman told me that she does not want to meet at night, mainly because she gets tired and doesn't think it's fair to ask the support staff to come back at night.

Well, I'm sorry, but that's just too bad. Hillsborough County has had night meetings for years. Perhaps they give their staff flex time? The point is, they figured out, like just about every other local governing body, how to make it work. How are the majority of working parents supposed to participate in the decisionmaking process of their children's education if they don't even have the chance to attend meetings? Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of taking time off every other Wednesday, and I doubt most parents do.

At a time when the Pinellas County School Board is suffering a credibility problem and is being accused almost daily in local news stories as not being responsive to citizens' concerns, I find it incredible that all members wouldn't embrace this simple yet effective way of reaching out to the community and making it easier for parents to become involved. Perhaps, however, that is exactly what Ms. Freeman fears.

Sarah J. Robinson, Safety Harbor

Spare the dogs the pain

Re: Don't sacrifice dogs' ears, tails for fashion, July 15.

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