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Letters to the Editor 

Letters published August 6, 2003

Leave Rent-to-Owns Alone
They're the best bet after Best Buy: I am responding to "Bounty Hunter" [July 9], on rent-to-owns. As a consumer, I feel that your article is based on half-truths and has a very one-sided opinion. It is unfair and ridiculous to accuse rent-to-own businesses of harassment. When customers enter into an agreement with such a business, they are fully aware of the cost of merchandise, exactly what is expected of them regarding renewal payments, and what actions will be taken if they decide not to return the property and not to renew their rental agreement.

When customers make renewal payments, they are paying for usage over time, not for property. Rent-to-owns are like car-rental companies -- at the end of the rental, you can either re-rent the car or return it. The only difference is that rent-to-owns give you the option of buying the property.

Companies such as Rent-Way offer people like Ron Young the opportunity to have the nice stuff that they otherwise couldn't afford. Rent-to-own customers like me do not have the means to go to Best Buy and buy a brand-new television. And even if we had a credit card to use, we wouldn't be paying much less, with interest rates as high as 23 percent.

You claim that a rent-to-own in California enlisted the help of the Hell's Angels -- that's something that I would have loved to see. Most of the managers of these businesses wouldn't know the first thing about how to contact such a group, let alone how to deal with someone involved in one. That accusation is about as ridiculous as your attempt to insult the Glenville Town Center's Rent-Way by their spelling of "demamnded" -- as if to imply that you, a journalist, have never printed anything misspelled.

You stated, "The industry targets the bedraggled . . . settling in struggling neighborhoods." I am not certain where you got your information from, but there are plenty of rent-to-own stores located in neighborhoods that are far from struggling. Regardless of whether the clientele are struggling or not, these people enter into agreements with these companies of their own free will. Nobody comes to their doors soliciting, with big-screen televisions or bedroom sets.

There may have been some wrongdoing on behalf of the Glenville Rent-Way. However, I do not see the purpose of dragging the industry down. That's a generalization that shouldn't be put out there, any more than the generalization that all journalists are money-hungry, truth-bending manipulators.

The bottom line is that people such as Ron Young will exploit anything or anyone to try to beat the system and look like a victim. These people are far from victims. The only thing that they may be victims of is their own ignorance.

Angel Marie Holme
Cleveland

Editor's note: In clarification, "the generalization that all journalists are money-hungry, truth-bending manipulators" is not mere stereotype. It is in fact true.

No State's for Gay Mates
Ohio's not even civil: I read Pete Kotz's column ["No Money Down," July 9] on how to increase Ohio tourism, and I have to point out a small but not insignificant error, as I suppose others will also do. Kotz stated, "Hawaii grants full marital rights . . . ," presumably to same-sex couples. This is just not true. No U.S. state recognizes same-sex marriage. What was stated as fact is often misstated in mainstream press accounts as well.

Hawaii, like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alaska, Vermont, and six other states, has very strong equal-protection clauses in its state constitution. Ohio, of course, is nowhere near those states. Vermont's civil unions, which are often mischaracterized as marriages, resulted from constitutional challenges in that state. Those civil unions are, however, only recognized in Vermont. Massachusetts now waits for its Supreme Judicial Court to decide whether it needs to recognize same-sex marriages.

New Jersey also has a case working its way through the courts. But Hawaii and Alaska will never have that issue in their courts again, because in November 1998, both changed their state constitutions to specifically bar same-sex marriages. Hawaii's constitutional amendment resulted from a case brought by same-sex couples under its equal-protection clause. Had it not been for the amendment coming in first and making the subsequent ruling moot, Hawaii's Supreme Court would have ruled that the state could not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Alaska's situation was identical, except that changing their constitution didn't take as long as it did in Hawaii.

As of today, there are only four places in the world where same-sex couples can legally marry: Belgium, Netherlands, Ontario, and British Columbia. The United States has gone in the other direction on marriage and, despite the recent Lawrence vs. Texas Supreme Court ruling, shows no sign of reversing course.

Ohio is a gay-hostile state that may become more hostile when debate starts concerning the Defense of Marriage Act currently in the Senate. And there is little chance that Ohio will mature anytime soon -- which is, I suspect, the whole idea behind Kotz's otherwise very good column.

Eric Resnick
Canton

Defending a money-maker: In response to "No Money Down": Of all the articles I've seen written in defense of gay marriage, this is one of the sharpest. Good job!

Roy Culver
Seattle

Good call: Thanks for an eloquent and articulate article "pitching" the idea of gay marriage. I'm glad that you contacted Joe Cimperman, because he is one of the region's leading advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

Patrick Shepherd
Cleveland

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