Maryland

Commentary & Community

Styrofoam Ban Advances in Maryland

It may soon be illegal for Maryland businesses to serve food or drinks in Styrofoam containers.

 

This week the state Senate passed legislation that would outlaw the use of polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers in food service. Retailers are also banned from selling such containers under the legislation.

 

Three of Maryland’s largest counties already ban the use of this product, as does Baltimore City.

 

Supporters of the measure said that it was a good way to cut down a product that could not be recycled and did not easily biodegrade. They said this ban would save space in landfills and reduce litter. Opponents argued that the burden would fall on small businesses. They also said that it would have no real effect on litter or the environment, since only a tiny amount of litter involved Styrofoam.

 

The legislation now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration.

 

Do you support a ban on Styrofoam food containers?

High Court Hears Cross Case

A cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, is at the center of a legal case that could allow the Supreme Court to further define just how far the government can go in accommodating, or promoting, religion.

 

The American Legion and residents of Bladensburg erected the cross in 1925 to commemorate those killed in World War I. The state of Maryland has owned the land that the cross sits on since 1961 and a state commission pays for its upkeep.

 

The American Humanist Association says that this violates the First Amendment. It brought suit to remove the cross from state land on the grounds that this was an impermissible promotion of Christianity. Maryland has resisted doing this, arguing that the cross has secular meaning within the larger context of being situated among other monuments to veterans.

 

During oral arguments on Wednesday, a majority of the justices seemed willing to buy Maryland’s arguments. They appeared to be searching for ways to find a secular meaning for the monument, which would avoid larger First Amendment questions. Some justices, however, appeared to find it difficult to separate the cross from its Christian meaning.

 

The court will return a verdict on this case before it adjourns in June.

 

Do you think that using a cross on public land as a way to commemorate the war dead is a violation of the First Amendment?

Maryland Lawmakers Approve Gender Neutral Drivers’ Licenses

If you live in Maryland and do not identify as either male or female, you may soon be able to receive a gender neutral drivers’ license.

 

Under legislation approved by the state Senate, Marylanders who do not wish to have “F” or “M” on their drivers’ licenses may instead choose “X.” This signifies that the driver identifies as non-binary or gender neutral.

 

Sponsors of the legislation say that it will help gender neutral individuals participate more fully in society. They say it will help them move off the sidelines of public life. Opponents of the legislation argued that a driver’s license is an identifying document, so it should accurately represent the person who holds it.

 

Five other states issue gender neutral licenses. Maryland’s neighbor, the District of Columbia, also issues such licenses, and was the first jurisdiction to do so in 2017.

 

Do you think that states should issue gender neutral drivers’ licenses to people who do not identify as male or female?

Assisted Suicide Bill Considered in Maryland

It goes by a lot of names – assisted suicide, aid in dying, physician-assisted death, death with dignity, to name a few. Whatever term that one prefers, Maryland legislators are considering a bill that would allow doctors to aid terminally ill people who are seeking to die.

 

Under proposed legislation, Marylanders with a terminal illness who have fewer than six months to live could receive a prescription for drugs that would allow them to die in their sleep. The “End of Life Option Act” would shield participating physicians from civil or criminal liability for prescribing lethal medication in these instances.

 

Supporters of this bill say it is necessary to allow those who have painful illnesses to die with dignity. They argue that someone who wants to end his or her life quickly rather than suffering through a painful dying process, a doctor should be able to help that person. Opponents counter that doctors should preserve life, not take it.

 

Previous versions of this bill have been introduced in Maryland during past legislative sessions but have not received a favorable vote. Sponsors are hopeful that with a new crop of more liberal legislators elected in 2018, this may be the year for it to become law. Governor Larry Hogan has signaled that he is not supportive of assisted suicide.

 

If this legislation is enacted in Maryland, that state will join California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, and Vermont as states where assisted suicide is legal.

 

Do you think that it should be legal for doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for patients with a terminal illness?

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