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Editorial: The Times' disservice to Baldwin

by BAR Editorial Board

Senator Tammy Baldwin. Photo: AP
Senator Tammy Baldwin. Photo: AP  

Tammy Baldwin, the U.S. Senate's first out lesbian member, has been targeted for defeat by Republicans in her re-election bid this November. There are many reasons conservatives don't like Baldwin, like her support for abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act, as was mentioned in a lengthy New York Times story on Tuesday. But let's be clear that the real reason the right wants to unseat Baldwin wasn't found anywhere in the Times story: her sexual orientation.

This is just the latest example of the mainstream press dropping the ball when covering the LGBT community. Among the many benefits and achievements of coming out, LGBTs have won elective office at the local, state, and federal levels. But mainstream reporters - and their editors - remain reluctant or ignorant when noting that an officeholder or candidate is LGBT. Baldwin has always been out during her political career. There's no reason why the Times story could not mention that important fact, and that it's largely the reason why Republicans have taken aim at her. We can hear the GOP's catcalls now.

Instead, the story uses "telegenic" to describe one of Baldwin's rabid right-wing opponents, Kevin Nicholson. And the story notes that some Democrats have "expressed concern" that the negative advertising already underway has "whittled away" at Baldwin's support. Instead of complaining, these Democratic groups should marshal resources for Baldwin's race. Baldwin herself does have a "formidable" campaign chest, the article reported, but if national groups are starting to get queasy, it would be wise to step up to the plate and start writing those checks.

Nationally, the midterms could turn into a blue wave for Democrats, but regaining control of the Senate is a challenging task given that most of the seats the party must defend are in red states. That includes Baldwin's, as Wisconsin went for Donald Trump in 2016 in what was a shocking rebuke to Hillary Clinton's much-lauded - and since the election, much-ridiculed - campaign by analytics. Clinton took Wisconsin for granted, and her experience there should serve as a dire warning for November.

There's one reason that control of the Senate is crucial for our community: it has the power to confirm federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Already, the Senate has seated many anti-gay judges. Just this week, the Senate confirmed Kyle Duncan for a lifetime appointment to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Louisiana. Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund CEO Rachel Tiven called Duncan one of Trump's "worst nominees," stating that he opposes voting rights, women's right to access contraception, and civil rights for the LGBT community. He has targeted LGBT children and families, Tiven said. The timing could not be worse as courts across the country are currently hearing cases on child custody between same-sex parents, adoption rights, and more. In fact, Trump's judicial picks so far have been overwhelmingly white and male, which should concern anyone who believes in a qualified judiciary that reflects the diversity of the country.

Addressing many important issues will depend on tough Senate races like Wisconsin. Being a lesbian informs Baldwin's outlook. She brings a unique set of skills and life experiences to the Senate in part because she is a lesbian. It's shameful that the Times could not include this important fact about Baldwin, especially since it motivates so many right-wing bigots to drive her out of office. The paper did her a disservice.

SF streets get some help
Mayor Mark Farrell's announcement that he's hiring 10 new workers to remove syringes from streets and sidewalks is a welcome first step in curbing an epidemic of used needles littering the city. Syringes, unlike many other forms of litter, are an urgent public health problem and an environmental health issue. Health Director Barbara Garcia is correct when she says improperly discarded needles affect everyone.

However, we're not so impressed with the mayor's decision last week to quickly clear tent encampments in the Mission. Clearing the tents and forcing homeless people to move elsewhere is a temporary measure that does nothing to solve the lack of shelter and emergency housing, or mental health beds. When he was a supervisor, Farrell authored Proposition Q in 2016, which we opposed and voters passed. It allows city officials to remove tents from city streets if the homeless are given 24 hours' notice and offered shelter. We're certain that most of those camped out in the Mission have no desire to go to a shelter, or are mentally ill and can't really make those decisions. Either way, this stop-gap action will only result in the tents going up somewhere else. What's needed is a broader and comprehensive homeless and housing plan, and hopefully one that the next mayor can fully implement.

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