Maryland surveyed on "Don't Say Gay!"

MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2023

Be careful what you're sure of: If only in the political realm, Maryland isn't Florida.

In the political realm, Maryland is reliably blue. For example, this is the way Maryland voted in the 2020 election:

Maryland, presidential vote, 2020 election
Joe Biden (D): 65.4%
Donald J. Trump (R): 32.2%

Two years later, here's the way Maryland voted in elections for its eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Maryland, U.S. House elections, 2022: 
Democratic candidates: 64.7%
Republican candidates: 34.6%

On the basis of that (roughly) 2-ro-1 statewide vote, Democrats won seven of the state's eight House seats. Please don't ask how we did it!

Long story short, Maryland is one of our bluest states. Within that context, we want to show you a somewhat sobering passage from a recent report in the Washington Post.

Nicole Asbury's lengthy report concerned a debate within the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, one of the nation's largest school systems. Headline included, the report begins like this:

Some Montgomery parents want to opt out of new books featuring LGBTQ characters

Earlier this school year, Maryland’s largest school district revised its curriculum to include a new reading list of books with young LGBTQ characters in an effort to be more inclusive, but the reading list is getting pushback from some families who argue that Montgomery County Public Schools should allow an opt-out policy so their children won’t have to read the books or participate in lessons about them.

The reading list introduced several new books for students in prekindergarten to eighth grade that feature LGBTQ characters as part of the school system’s English language arts curriculum. The books include “My Rainbow”—a story about a mom who makes a wig for her transgender daughter—and “Love Violet”—a picture book about a shy young girl who mulls over how to give a Valentine to her crush, a girl in her class named Mira.

The stories on the list were recommended by a group of parents, community members, students and staff members, and the books were vetted by a committee of five staff members. Each book was posted online for parents to review...

Asbury continued from there, discussing the nuts and bolts of what is now a familiar type of dispute.  

Along the way, Asbury described Montgomery County as "a liberal D.C. suburb," which it basically is. That said, uh-oh! At one point, she included this possibly surprising passage concerning a recent statewide survey:

ASBURY (4/11/23): A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll in October found that a majority of Maryland voters support teachers discussing acceptance of LGBTQ people in middle school and high school grades, but views diverge about elementary school grade levels. By more than 2 to 1 (66 percent to 30 percent), more registered voters said it is inappropriate rather than appropriate for teachers to discuss acceptance of LGBTQ people with students in kindergarten through third grade. For students in grades four and five, 40 percent of voters say the discussions are appropriate, and 56 percent say it is inappropriate.

Yes, it's only one survey. And yes, the question posed to respondents was a bit strangely worded:

QUESTION: "Do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for Maryland public school teachers to discuss acceptance of LGBTQ people with students in kindergarten through third grade?"

Those observations apply! But by a margin of 66 percent to 30 percent, voters in the blue state of Maryland seemed to align with something resembling the type of restriction found in the state of Florida's original "Don't Say Gay" bill.

That result may seem surprising. We offer a type of political warning:

Be careful what you're sure of.

Within our own blue tribe, Florida's provision along these lines has been attacked, and sometimes perhaps a bit distorted, with gusto, from Day One. Especially at a time when news orgs are increasingly segregated by viewpoint, you may have seen and heard little pushback, even little nuanced pushback, to such characterizations.

Be careful what you're sure of! Rightly or wrongly, voter sentiment may not always align with the tribally pleasing impressions you're given by our blue tribe's cable news tribunes. Indeed, here's a passage from Asbury's original report about that survey of Maryland voters:

ASBURY (10/12/22): ...A separate nationwide poll by the University of Southern California found a similar pattern, with about 6 in 10 Americans saying high school students should learn about topics related to gender identity or sexual orientation, compared with fewer than 3 in 10 saying the same for elementary school students.

Asbury may be inclined to offer the good news first. But concerning the elementary grades, there you see a similar pattern emerging in a nationwide survey, with "fewer than 3 in 10 [respondents] saying" that grade school kids "should learn about topics related to gender identity or sexual orientation."

Stating the obvious, none of this means that that view is "right." Beyond that, other surveys may show something different.

That said, we live in a time when tribal tribunes are eager to tell us the things we want to hear. Such tribunes may not know what we need, but they do seem to know what we want.

One last gloomy point:

We recently watched a certain Florida governor giving a speech in the state of Iowa. We were shocked by how politically mainstream many of his talking points seemed. 

From that, we drew an important conclusion. As in 1980, so too today:

Be careful what you feel sure of! What you feel sure of (on a political basis) won't always turn out to be right!


  1. "That said, we live in a time when tribal tribunes are eager to tell us the things we want to hear."

    The problem with your tribe's tribunes is, dear Bob, that first they tell you what you want to hear, and then, without missing a beat, they tell you that never said it.

    Like, y'know, with that "defund the police" thing.

    ...and so, why do we (and you!) want to listen to anything they say?

    ...but wait, is it really a problem with your tribunes? Hell no, dear Bob; come to think of it, it is, of course, a problem of your whole tribe...

    1. Defund the FSB.

    2. Why dont you link to a major lib or office holder saying “defund the police” Mao ? Oh that’s right, you can’t. But if you want to flush out the CONSERVATIVE notion that there are ways taxpayer funds could be better spent in law enforcement, I’m all ears…

  2. The second amendment is evil.

  3. "Some Montgomery parents want to opt out of new books featuring LGBTQ characters."

    Is this true? My impression is that it's 501(c) political groups, who want to opt out of new books featuring LGBTQ characters.

    1. I don’t read LGBTQ books, but I’m otherwise progressive.

    2. People can and do choose what to read, and parents can already opt their kids out. The question is whether you should decide what is available for others to choose from. This is about protecting minority rights.

  4. Republicans should support DC and PR statehood.

  5. You get similar splits over how much homework kids should be assigned. Why is Somerby hinting that parents should determine such things as teaching tolerance for all people, even in lower grades?

  6. Somerby is trying to tell us that even blue states are not really blue when it comes to social issues.

    I would be more impressed by his survey if it were limited to parents of school age kids. Also if it broke out responses by political affiliation. Note also that Maryland was originally a Catholic colony — not sure if that remains true but it would explain an atypical conservatism on social issues that wouldn’t generalize to other blue states.

    1. You’re not sure if Maryland is still a Catholic colony? Read about it in Wikipedia.

    2. No, not sure if the state is still more Catholic than other states. But you are right, I can look it up.

    3. Maryland is right in the middle in terms of religiosity. It is only slightly less religious than the Bible belt (midwest and Southern states) and nowhere near as secular as New England. Most of the more Catholic states these days have high hispanic populations or large cities with high Irish and European heritage immigrant traditions.

      @8:06 -- try not to be excessively literal.

    4. Many parts of Maryland are actually as red as red gets. Southern Maryland, for example, formerly an enclave of scientists and retired government workers through the 70s, now however, there’s literally a giant Trump flag that flies over Solomons Island.

  7. Strawman alert -- no one among liberals is saying that all liberals believe the same things about any issue that is supported as part of progressive politics and the Democratic platform. We are fully aware that there is diversity of belief on the left. However, unlike Republicans, we have a party platform, policies, programs and ideas for addressing issues, and these are enumerated by our candidates ahead of any election. We don't pose with guns or spout word salad in response to reporter questions. No one on the left expects the party discipline and enforced consistency of belief found on the right.

    Somerby's implication that we liberals might be mistaken about what our supporters stand for is much less true about the left than the right. I don't personally know anyone stupid enough to believe that all liberals think alike. So what exactly is Somerby's point?

    He seems to be trying to say that measures enacted by MD schools are out of step with what MD residents as a whole might want. I don't think he survey proves that, but schools don't teach according to public consensus but according to standards and curriculum developed by State Superintendents of Education, not individual kooks who may be responding to surveys, even if there are a lot of them. This boils down to another anti-expertise argument, implying that experts in education shouldn't decide what to teach kids, because some nationwide conservative movement (like Moms for Liberty) might be influencing some suggestible people's survey answers.

    1. Interestingly Somerby was mum on the recent survey that showed a large majority of Americans have a positive view of the notion of “woke”.

    2. In the same University of Maryland poll that Somerby cites, 67% oppose the Dobbs decision, and 78% support a state constitutional amendment protecting the right to have an abortion in Maryland.

      But that DeSantis sure sounded mainstream, I tell ya.

  8. Gay people have always been with us (in all times and across cultures), whether we have been aware of them or not. Reading about gay characters in books doesn't turn kids gay. It does help explain the world to them, so that when meeting someone who is gay, they will understand them and respond appropriately (treating them as fellow human beings with inclusiveness, as they deserve and are promised by our Constitution).

    I get the impression that conservatives know they won't get away with suggesting materials that demonize gay people, suggesting that they are deviants and pedophiles (studies show they are not), so they will settle for excluding gay people from society (which communicates a similar message and doesn't contradict home teaching).

    We should be talking about this difference in attitude toward gayness explicitly, not fighting it out via who will control books in school libraries. But conservatives will lose such an argument because science backs progressives while conservatives have only the bible to support their beliefs. Because we are not a theocracy, appeals to the Bible cannot sway laws or even customs (if imposed on others), so conservatives are frustrated because they cannot get their way via argument and can only resort to force. That's where subversion of democracy comes in.

    Somerby doesn't mind letting conservatives determine attitudes about gays (and other social issues) because he agrees with them. If he were to picture himself as someone who believes differently, more consistently with science and research (such as studies showing that gays are not pedophiles, mentally ill, demonic, etc), he might be less inclined to let the right wing take over what other people do, by force of law and perversion of our institutions (such as libraries and schools).

    At the end of the day, the right wing is not correct about the nature of being gay, about the place of gay people in our society, about how gays should be treated as people. Progressives oppose the right because this is a civil rights issue, a human rights issue. Gay rights are human rights, and they have the right to remain visible in our society and culture, to participate, just as anyone else does.

    There are religious theocracies in the world. I wouldn't want to live in any of them, because they don't tend to treat women very well. But perhaps the ultimate solution is for religious theocrats to migrate to such places. I'm sure they will find a welcome there -- or maybe not. Via that experience they may come to understand the value of our country, which has embraced diversity instead of limiting it, and come back with a better sense of what tolerance means.

  9. Bobby would like to present DeSantis as a reasonable candidate here, based upon polling suggesting that voters are generally uncomfortable with sexual messaging to K-3 age children. Here in Florida his 2 signature pieces of legislation regarding abortion and open carry of guns not requiring permits are opposed by greater than 70% of the electorate polled. A recent analysis indicated that very poor turnout of registered democrats gave him his lopsided victory in 2020 (his opponent was milktoast Charlie Christ, a has been republican turned democrat, and prior governor). Only Bobby can explain his motives here in misrepresenting DeSantis as having views in line with moderates.

  10. A non-black non-male got killed approaching a non-southern house:

    1. I don't see color.
      I see a nation with a gun problem.

    2. We need to start telling school-aged children to run toward the sound of gunfire, because that's where the freedom is.

    3. The second amendment is evil.

  11. Second amendment.

  12. Bob spent years rationalizing Trump’s rhetoric by citing small disclaimers in his bile. Bob was SURE his ranting was harmless, and would not provoke a deadly attack on our Capitol or anything like that.,