Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick) pushed backed against criticism lodged by Jewish members of the General Assembly, accusing his colleagues in a letter of twisting the words he used during an emotionally-charged floor debate to gain partisan advantage.
He offered no apology for his comments and he again excoriated the General Assembly for approving legislation that he said would damage Maryland families.
Cox’s April 22 letter was a reply to one sent by 18 Jewish lawmakers — all Democrats — that condemned the Frederick County Republican for referencing the Holocaust during a debate over House Bill 132, a measure to lower the age of consent for minors to seek care for certain mental health services without parental permission to as young as 12.
In the lead-up to the chamber’s April 8 vote on the measure, Cox said “one of the things that was interesting and very sad in the Nuremberg Trials was the fact that medical professionals interfered with parental rights.”
One outcome of those trials, Cox argued, was passage of the European Commission on Human Rights, “guaranteeing that never again will the state and the health care community interfere with the rights of parents and the right to family — and that’s what this bill does.”
Del. Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Howard) sprang to her feet to object.
“I am enormously affronted as a Jew, when you in any way compare this bill to the Holocaust,” she said, facing Cox directly. “Shame on you.”
Pendergrass and the head of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington — among others — said Cox’s remarks were particularly painful because they occurred on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
But in his letter, which began “Dear Honorable Jewish Members of the Maryland General Assembly,” the lawmaker maintained that he “never compared [the bill] to the atrocities of the Holocaust and to smear my name as you are doing is wrong.”
“I did not say the concentration camp horrors were ‘due to [sic] a lack of parental rights’ or ‘under the guise of health treatment’ as you defame me. I was not ‘flippant’ as you falsely smear me, I was clear: the resulting European Commission on Human Rights convention articles on parental and familial rights in the medical care, religious upbringing and all other rights is based upon our 14th Amendment’s protection of such natural rights that come from God alone, not the State, not the House of Delegates, not any medical professional’s subjective decision.”
The House version of the Mental Health Access Initiative died in the Senate, but a companion measure cleared both chambers. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has yet to indicate if he will sign it.
Cox charged that the measure is a danger because it could lead to 12-year-olds getting “secret chemical sex change advice.”
“My constituents are outraged that any such legislation would be passed by the Maryland General Assembly,” he added.
His footnoted letter also details at length his travels to Nazi concentration camps, his education, and his work on behalf of the Jewish clients of his law practice.
“I am proud of my love for the Jewish people and our mutual Abrahamic faith; I am proud of my education, including my doctoral degree with distinction and my professional work for freedom and the families of the poor and downtrodden,” he wrote.
Cox suggested that lawmakers who faulted him for his floor remarks misused General Assembly letterhead, which under the rules cannot be used in a manner that “misrepresents, threatens, or vilifies another legislator as a means of gaining legislative advantage.”
The letter sent by Jewish legislators called Cox’s remarks “deeply hurtful to our community, as well as to all of those who are familiar with the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.”
“Equating HB132 with the mass murder committed during the Holocaust would be laughable if it weren’t painful and deeply offensive,” they added.
Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery), one of the lawmakers who signed the letter, said in a brief interview on Monday, “His response indicates that he just does not get it.” She declined to elaborate.
Lawmakers who backed the bill said teenagers who would benefit from mental health care should not have it denied because of their parents’ disapproval.
The measure that Hogan will consider passed roughly along party lines, 31-16 in the Senate and 92-43 in the House.