Friday, July 23, 2010

Vanessa Ali Walks Out on Equality Maryland

Want to know if a candidate really dislikes you? How about if they walk out on your interview? District 14 Delegate candidate Vanessa Ali did that to Equality Maryland, but there’s a twist: she did it after agreeing with them in writing!

Like many endorsing groups, Equality Maryland has sent questionnaires to candidates for state office. Marriage equality is one of their big issues. Vanessa Ali had responded to a question on marriage in her Progressive Maryland questionnaire in this way:

Question: As you may know, the Maryland Attorney General recently released an opinion stating that Maryland permits the recognition of valid out-of-state marriages of same sex couples. Do you support legislation to ensure all gay and lesbian couples have access to full civil marriage equality in Maryland?

Answer: Yes
Ali gave the same response in writing to Equality Maryland, so they brought her in for a face-to-face interview. But Ali knew nothing about the organization. They explained that they advocated for LGBT civil rights. Ali did not know what LGBT stood for, so they told her it was an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Ali said, “I don’t support that. I can’t talk about that.” Then she walked out! Equality Maryland was smart to bring her in, because if they had relied on her questionnaire alone, they might have concluded that she supported their goals.

Now Vanessa Ali is something of a special case. But the episode brings up the difficulty of evaluating politicians who are mostly experts in telling endorsing organizations what they want to hear. For example, the vast majority of Democratic politicians have promised Progressive Maryland and the AFL-CIO to support project labor agreements. But how many of them really know what they are? How about card check, or right-to-work laws, or combined reporting, or Maintenance of Effort? Your author would like to see ANY politician accurately define every one of these items. We know some of you can do that, but you are the exceptions.

Of course, if you don’t want to educate yourselves, you can always walk out!